When the Boundary Commission started unveiling proposals for a new-look political map back in 2016, it initially suggested reducing the four Belfast constituencies down to three.
This idea looked to have been dropped when an updated draft of the blueprints was published in January this year.
This new announcement on Monday of the final plans for the Province’s boundaries confirms that this will not happen.
However, other changes are afoot.
Belfast East: This will take in Holywood, formerly part of North Down. It will also add on neighbourhoods south of Upper Knockbreda Road which now exist on the fringe of South Belfast.
Belfast North: Nigel Dodds’ constituency is very tight between DUP and Sinn Fein support, so any change here could have major ripple effects. It will now stretch north, taking in Carnmoney, the loyalist Ballycraigy estate and going as far as Jordanstown’s Lough Shore park.
Whilst these may be broad gains in terms of unionist votes, a densely-packed cluster of neighbourhoods off the loyalist stronghold of the Shankill Road – running all the way from the Twaddell roundabout to Agnes Street – will now find themselves transferred into Belfast West. However Nicholas Whyte said that, in his analysis, whilst this all adds an extra 1,000 or so voters to the seat, the constituency’s religious make-up will stay “almost exactly the same”.
Belfast South: The constituency will expand to take in a large rural hinterland, covering the Protestant-dominated villages of Drumbo and Moneyreagh. It will also jump north to occupy much of the city centre, taking in Royal Avenue and CastleCourt shopping centre, as far north as Smithfield (even though all these zones are to the north of City Hall – the city’s de de facto epicentre).
Belfast West: It will lose a chunk of its largely-unpopulated rural western edge. But it will now surge deep towards the centre of Lisburn city, taking in Derriaghy as well as Milltown.