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Gerrymandering in Dunmurry?

Mark Devenport | 17:19 UK time, Friday, 13 November 2009

I'm just back from Dunmurry where the Environment Minister Edwin Poots was defending himself against accusations of gerrymandering. Last night we reported that he's warning that the whole local government shake up could collapse if there isn't agreement on council boundaries. This afternoon he was open about his desire to see the borders suggested by the Independent Commissioner redrawn around his own home patch of Lisburn.

Essentially the Commissioner decided to put Dunmurry, along with Twinbrook and Poleglass, into Belfast City Council. But the minister wants it retained in Lisburn. Sinn Fein's Paul Butler has questioned whether the minister, who is also a Lisburn councillor, has a conflict of interests and is acting out of selfish political motives. But Mr Poots told me he had the backing of other parties in the area and is seeking to overturn a boundary which he is convinced makes no sense.

Certainly the only people who I talked to on the street in Dunmurry wanted to stay with Lisburn, perhaps because the rates there are lower. But some reckon there's a far bigger political fish being fried, with unionists concerned that an extra nationalist ward in Belfast might be just enough to upset the balance of the city and tip it into nationalist control.

Interestingly Paul Butler didn't entirely agree with the "Green Belfast" line, maintaining the row was far more local. However the implications could stretch well beyond Dunmurry with the future of the proposed reduction of the current 26 councils to just 11 on the line. And if we don't sort out who empties the dustbins in Dunmurry we could - if Edwin Poots leaked letter is to be believed - all be going to the polls for an early council election next year.

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  • 1. At 10:12pm on 13 Nov 2009, Chris Donnelly wrote:

    Mark
    The contrast between the stated position of the SDLP locally (who, for misguided electoral concerns, support the Minister) and Dolores Kelly, who accused the Minister of gerrymandering, is worth pursuing.

    Paul Butler is correct about the parochial concerns primarily driving the Minister. Lisburn's unionist councillors are most interested in preserving the rate base in the borough; though, at other levels within the party, the changing demographic balance of Belfast is undoubtedly partially behind this move.

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  • 2. At 11:14am on 14 Nov 2009, bushmill_1608 wrote:

    They really do not get it. If you hold a double mandate you will on occassions have a clear conflict of interest. Whether it is development of a prison site or redrawing of city borders.

    The minister has form in apparently using high office to seek to favour his local council area.

    On a separate point a hardworking double mandated but inneffective MLA is unlikely to be much better as a Councillor, bring on early elections.

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  • 3. At 5:15pm on 14 Nov 2009, Stormontspy wrote:

    Mark,

    The position for the SDLP is confusing to say the least. Do they not communicate between themselves??

    Surely this issue is a conflict of interest for Edwin Poots. It just demonstrates why MLA and in particular Ministers should not be councillors.

    It also shows another reason why people are sick of the current bunch of MLA's. It is time an election was here.

    Stormontspy

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  • 4. At 2:23pm on 15 Nov 2009, SusieFlood wrote:

    Mark

    IS GERRYMANDERING A CRIMINAL OFFENCE?

    I believe it is.

    Environment Minister Poots is conspiring to manipulate changes to the planned boundaries suggested by the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland.

    I believe Poots's actions are illegal. It is now time for the PSNI to interview Poots with a view to preparing a file for the Public Prosecution Service.

    The question is: Will Matt Baggott do what's right OR what's politically expedient?

    Susie
    Carryduff

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  • 5. At 3:04pm on 15 Nov 2009, Stormontspy wrote:

    Susie,

    Of course gerrymandering is illegal but as you told me, since 1998 the Good Friday Agreement changed everything. Before that generally criminals were locked up. Today they are running the country. I am sure this issue and every other boils down to either money or orange and green.

    Stormontspy

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  • 6. At 10:15am on 16 Nov 2009, The_Oncoming_Storm wrote:

    This is all reminiscent of the controversy over the building of Poleglass when Lisburn Council announced that they wouldn't provide refuse collection and other services and only backed down after the then Secretary of State threatened to send the councillors responsible the bill for the bin collection.

    The whole RPA is just a sectarian carve up, under the plan, SF were to have 5 fiefdoms, the DUP 5 and Belfast was to be left 50/50. Unfortunately for the DUP the Boundary Commission haven't played ball and it could be that Nationalists will run NI's 2 biggest cities (oh what a gift for TUV!). This wouldn't have happened if the Commission had been able to create a Belfast City Council that took in the city's natural boundaries but of course that would have meant that Peter's little kingdom in Castlereagh would have been consigned to the dustbin of history where it belongs!

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  • 7. At 4:46pm on 21 Nov 2009, Tony Stanney wrote:

    Ask Minister Poots if he is willing to include the ice rink within the new Lisburn boundary. It is falling down around their ears because of underinvestment by Castle reagh B C and needs millions spent on it. Bet you it goes to Belfast. GERRYMANDER IS WRONG, IS WRONG AND WRONG AGAIN.
    If you want to see the dreadful effects of double jobbing, research the ongoing planning application for a small family run funeral parlour in Lisburn which the DUP do not want but which the planners say is OK.The minister in charge of planning - Mr Poots - is also a Lisburn Councillor. This is a cracker if you like big government bullying small business.

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  • 8. At 5:54pm on 21 Nov 2009, Stormontspy wrote:

    Tony Stanney,

    What is wrong with the funeral parlour? I tried Google but can't find anything exact.

    Stormontspy

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  • 9. At 12:21pm on 22 Nov 2009, Tony Stanney wrote:

    A small businessman in Lisburn applied to get a change of use from office to funeral parlour in Sept 2007. The office is owned by the UUP. The planning authority have given the go ahead 5 times but the DUP have used every trick in the book to stop it. Last time before Lisburn Council in November 2009 there is a big row because the planner announces another delay (unexpected because it had been again given the go ahead by planners for the fourth time). Who was the main objector that brought it thus far but one Minister/MLA/Councillor/ Edwin Poots. Who is sitting at the council meeting that night but Councillor Edwin Poots.The planner appears at the council and delays because he has been told there is new information on the application. Remember Minister Edwin Poots is his boss although Councillor Edwin Poots is there representing the council in its 'advisory' capacity. There is uproar and Councillor Basil McCrea threatens legal action. Poots goes quiet and McCrea demands this new information be heard within 7 days. It is heard 7 days later and guess what - no new information but Minister/MLA/ Councillor Poots dosent turn up - too busy. This businessman has been treated disgracefully by this process and the abuse needs to be exposed. Never again can our government be so callously misused.

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