Northern Ireland

Boundary plans 'failed to consider' consultation

ballot box Image copyright PA
Image caption The proposal was part of a wider move to reduce MPs at Westminster from 650 to 600.

Proposals to redraw electoral boundaries in Northern Ireland failed to consider all of its consultation responses, a court has ruled.

A High Court judge identified a legal flaw in the Boundary Commission's final recommendations.

The new proposals, published last year, was considered to be the biggest constituency shake up since the 1990s.

The plans would have cut the number of constituencies from 18 to 17.

It was part of a wider move to reduce MPs at Westminster from 650 to 600.

But unlike earlier proposals which involved Belfast dropping to three constituencies, the city is to retain four seats under the final recommendations.

High Court challenge

In February, a Belfast man brought a judicial review challenging the Commission's proposals.

His lawyers claimed the Commission has acted unlawfully and unfairly.

Described as "a constituent affected by the changes to the electoral boundaries proposed by the Boundary Commission", he was given anonymity in the case.

Image copyright Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland
Image caption The proposed new boundaries

The planned constituency shake-up provoked political controversy, with Sinn Féin claiming it would leave a number of constituencies without any nationalist representation.

Central to the legal challenge is a rule within the relevant legislation which allows the Commission to deviate from a 5% range of the UK electoral quota when considering constituency size.

Counsel for the man taking the case, argued that the authority had shifted away from its provisional recommendations by relying on the rule without a proper legal basis.

Lawyers for the body under challenge insisted changes to the proposals were were in response to "a healthy and procedurally correct consultation process".

A further hearing next month will decide on the final remedies.

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