Friday 13 November 2009

Supercouncils plan on the rocks

Good. Kill the plans now, and start again.

Minister Poots has warned that failure to agree the boundaries of the new councils could mean he may not get the necessary legislation through by the end of this year, and there is speculation that this could push the NIO into calling elections for the existing councils in 2010 (as would have happened in the absence of agreement on the new councils).

The planned boundaries of the new councils are illogical and impractical – and in some cases sentence nationalist areas to perpetual unionist domination. Anything that forces a rethink can only be good.


What possible administrative logic is served by combining Newry and Mourne with Down district? It would form a ridiculous crescent stretching from Crossmaglen up to the outer fringes of Belfast!

The obsession with keeping the current district boundaries (why?) means that the Clogher valley sticks like a redundant appendage into the new Fermanagh-Omagh council. The Clogher valley should be part of Fermanagh-Omagh, not the Mid-Ulster council.

And no nationalist should ever agree with Limavady being forced into the Causeway Coast council, with its political domination by the unionists of Coleraine and North Antrim.

There are numerous other small boundaries that should be changed, and several major decisions that need to be reversed.

Whether there were to be 7, 11 or 15 councils, the objective should have been to draw boundaries that maximised the efficiency of the councils. An equally important objective should have been to ensure that areas had councils that they felt comfortable with – if this looked like de facto repartition, then so be it. Unless there are cast-iron guarantees of equality, cultural respect, proportionate appointments, and the de-politicisation of council business, no nationalist area should be placed under the control of unionists where possible. Does anyone really think that Causeway Cost council would agree to, for example, bi-lingual letterheads (as in Limavady now), or bi-lingual street signs? Tokenism, you might say – but keenly indicative of a mindset too common in unionism.

Stop the plans now, and completely re-draw the boundaries before going any further.

27 comments:

bangordub said...

Surely anyehere else there would be 6 councils based on county boundaries plus one for Belfast.
Of course the North is "somewhere else"

Anonymous said...

Bangordub, you are right. People identify with the Counties, not with councils. Anything else is simply ridiculous.

A Scandinavian living in Germany.

hoboroad said...

Yes 6 County councils plus one for Belfast is the only sensible option.

hoboroad said...

It is all to do with the rates from Forestside shopping centre going to Castlereagh Council. And Castlereagh Council off loading the Robinson Centre and Dundonald Ice Bowl onto Belfast City Council.

picador said...

Or trying to gerrymander Belfast back under unionist control.

picador said...

Horseman,

Demographic profile of proposed Causeway council area at 2001 was 39% + Catholic 58% Protestant. Armagh-Craigavon-Banbridge was 42% + Catholic. That is around 42% and 45% respectively in the present day.

It's inevitable that some nationalist districts will fall into majority unionist council districts as is the case at present. The reverse scenario is also true of course.

Faha said...

Horseman,
The boundaries for the new 11 Super councils were actually originally devised by Arlene Foster of the DUP. They were then sent to the Local Government Boundary Commission for fine tuning. If you look at the demographics of the current 26 councils and those of the new 11 super councils it is obvious that the boundaries of the new super councils are a blatant attempt at gerrymandering by the DUP. Moyle Council has had a nationalist majority since the 1970's. Limivady Council always had a unionist majority until the 1993 elections when the nationalist parties won a majority which they have held ever since. Armagh Council always had a unionist majority until the 2001 election when the unionist parties lost their majority.Since the unionist parties can no longer control these 3 councils by winning a fair election they decided to gerrymander the boundaries of the new super councils and place Limavady, Moyle and Armagh within unionist majority super councils and therby regain control of these 3 councils. The new Causeway super council has a Catholic population of 39.4% and the new Armagh-Banbridge-Craigavon super council has a Catholic population of 42.3% ( 2001 census ). Although Edwin Poot's attempt to alter the Boundary Commissions recommendations in the Lisburn area appears to have precipitated the current disagreement, the changes involving Moyle, Limavady and Armagh are much more siginificant.Furthermore, NONE of the current unionist majority councils will be transferred to nationalist majority super councils. The unionist pick up 3 councils and the nationalists none purely on boundary changes.Both Sinn Fein and the SDLP should veto the "devolution" of these new super councils until there is "community confidence" within the nationalist communities of Limavady, Moyle and Armagh. A neutral alternative should be the only accepatable alternative.The DUP needs to learn that a veto works in both directions.

New times, New approach said...

They can't postpone the inevitable forever no matter how many contorted councils they might create. If they were able to manipulate every one of them to have 55% unionist and 45% nationalist it would still be only a short while until those positions would be reversed. In settling for slim majorities in order to try to control the most possible they are the architects of their own speedier downfall.
We must remember however that regardless of their political activities in the past, they are fellow Irishmen (I think 300 years entitles them to that recognition whether they welcome it or not) and must be treated as such when the boot is on the other foot.

picador said...

NTNA,

I agree. Allow them their slender majorities for the time being. We can see where the demographics are headed.

Are you lacking confidence in your own arguments Horseman?

Dazzler said...

Why should nationalists give unionists slim majorities when they don't need to?

picador said...

Cos with the passage of time the slim unionist majorities will disappear. That's the main premise of this site I believe.

Its also represents a safeguard in the event that unionist crazies demand re-partition at a future date (as some of them inevitably will). What do you mean the north coast is unionist territory? It's 50% Catholic!

To misquote Leonard Cohen 'First we take Banbridge, then we take Coleraine'.

I also quite like the idea of Crossmaglen being twinned with Saintfield.

Dazzler said...

I dont buy it? If the shoe was on the other foot do you think unionists would give nationalists majorities. No they would veto it. Nationalism needs to be strong.

Horseman said...

picador,

Are you lacking confidence in your own arguments Horseman?

LOL, no not at all!

But, as others have said, why give more to unionist control than strictly needs to be given?

Also, by creating the boundaries where they actually should be, it could show the 'doomsday' unionists just how small their fall-back state would be, and thus how unviable.

I'll check my stats later (they're on another computer) to see what strength I reckon nationalism will have in Causeway Coast and Armagh City and Bann. I think the latter is closer than the former, but even so I don't want nationalists in either area to have union jacks and orange marches stuffed down their throats if it can be avoided. Much better to maximise the extent of 'nationalist' territory to demonstrate that nationalist 'rule' is more tolerant and pleasant for all.

These new boundaries are a real step backwards for a lot of people. Those (in Limavady and Moyle) who have started to get used to non-unionist control are going to get a rude awakening. Maybe that is a machiavellian plan - to increase nationalist fervour as a result of the inevitable unionist abuses of power.

Watcher said...

picador said:

"Its also represents a safeguard in the event that unionist crazies demand re-partition at a future date (as some of them inevitably will). What do you mean the north coast is unionist territory? It's 50% Catholic!"

Any attempt by Unionists in a doomsday scenario to implement re-partition will be gauged at the lowest possible level, probably by ward. Even then adjustments will be made as appropriate.

Having said that, this type of re-partition would be a final fall back position. Much more likely would be the transferring of areas such as Newry/South Armagh, Strabane and The West side of The Foyle to The Republic in order preserve a pro-Union majority within British Ulster.

Neither of these outcomes are likely, as they would only follow The UK state agreeing a border poll, something I believe is as likely as pigs flying.

In either case The Republic would need to agree to take the people in the areas concerned, something I suspect they'd be reluctant to agree. In addition, those areas for transfer would have to be consulted in a referendum prior to transfer.

picador said...

Horseman,

There's been talk of scrapping Moyle for years as it only has a population of around 16,000.

As for Limavady Council - well God bless it and its bilingual headed stationary, which will of course have to be tri-lingual after any merger!

Councils look after bins and graveyards, the Parades Commission do parades, the DRD flags on public property and an ILA should allow for bilingual signs. I don't recall seeing too many of these (Irish signage) in Moyle. Is it widespread in Limavady?

picador said...

I should add also that creating boundaries that look like de-facto partition only encourage people to think in those terms - and thus is to be avoided.

Horseman said...

picador,

Both good points, but don't forget that the new councils will get additional powers apart from bins, bogs and burials. One not unimportant one may be parades. If the Executive 'cowps' (a slugger word!) then the councils may pick up a lot of the slack.

A lot of the issue is perception, of course. The bilingual stationary is pretty irrelevant in the wider scheme of things, but the knowledge that your council refuses point-blank to accord your culture any recognition is very alienating. If there were real safeguards to avoid the current flag-flying, British-militarist-supporting, anti-Irish culture of the new councils, then there'd be little problem. But experience of the current unionist-controlled councils, and the lack so far of any real safeguards, means that it is better to minimise the area and the population that unionism will control.

As for the appearance of partition - is this a good enough reason to hand south Derry over to the tender mercies of Coleraine's bigotted loyalists? How come it hasn't worked in the other direction? 3 nationalist districts get to be ruled by unonists, but none move in the other direction! SF took their eye off the ball on this one.

picador said...

Councils cannot be given power over parades, flags-flying , etc. The proposed Ashdown reforms of parades give them an [i]intitial[/i] role in medidation, not the final say. Flag-flying is subject to equalities legislation. The British government is pledged to bringing in an Irish Language Act.

I take your point about the alienating behaviour of some unionist controlled councils but I really think you are being melodramtic when you suggest the south Derry (I assume you mean Dungiven) is to be left at the mercy of Coleraine loyalists.

I'd point out that Kilrea, Dunloy etc are already in such a position and when Moyle is eventually abolished (as it surely must be at some point) so will Ballycastle.

It seems SF may be taking the long view on this matter as well.

Watcher said...

picador said:

"I should add also that creating boundaries that look like de-facto partition only encourage people to think in those terms - and thus is to be avoided."

It's irrelevant. Loyalists already have re-partition plans should The Union break down and they are based upon Craig's 'those areas which we can control'. Existing council boundaries will mean nothing under those circumstances. Any attempt by The UK to enforce Irish Unity would mean The Union was dead and Loyalists would feel free to seek self determination for The Ulster British by whatever means they felt fit at that time. This is the reality.

picador said...

Perhaps you could further enlighten us on these plans and who is behind them.

picador said...

In any case I think that playing to the re-partition gallery, whether inadvertently or not, is very dangerous territory.

Anonymous said...

> Loyalists already have re-partition plans should The Union break down

Now there's confidence in the union! After all the dismissals of the inevitability of a nationalist majority it seems it's likely enough after all.

picador said...

The SDLP are alleged to be in cahoots with Poots over his gerrymander!

A stance which, if shown true, would cost them dear in Belfast

Watcher said...

The SDLP are looking longer term now. The UK Labour party is bound to move in at some point and The SDLP might be looking at being the core of that grouping locally. Could be some easy money in it for the big wheels - more claret etc

Anonymous said...

Watcher says ;

"...Loyalists already have
re-partition plans....."

Did their MI5 handlers and paymasters draw this up for them this time - or did they manage to draw this up all by themselves...?

Jimmy "the Gun-Runner" Craig would be turning in his grave if he would see the totally impotent state of unionism today.

- Munsterman

picador said...

Short term suicide - in Belfast at any rate - if they assist Poots with his gerrymander.

Watcher said...

Munsterman said:

"Did their MI5 handlers and paymasters draw this up for them this time - or did they manage to draw this up all by themselves...?"

I presume a bit of both as always. Friends in high places etc.

"Jimmy "the Gun-Runner" Craig would be turning in his grave if he would see the totally impotent state of unionism today."

Unionism exists to keep The Union. No problem there as far as I can see.