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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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