Ward ‘transfer’ plans facing mixed views

Ballymena Town Hall. Editorial image.
Ballymena Town Hall. Editorial image.

Proposals to transfer a number of Ballymena wards into the planned Dalriada constituency have drawn criticism from a local councillor.

In August, the Boundary Commission revealed plans for a radical shake-up of Northern Ireland’s political landscape, reducing the number of parliamentary constituencies from 18 to 17.

The draft map sees the area currently known as North Antrim change to Dalriada, expanding to take in a number of wards in Coleraine. Ballymena, meanwhile would fall into the newly-created West Antrim constituency.

However, it would also see the transfer of several Ballymena wards to Dalriada, with the remainder of the town remaining in West Antrim.

In a motion put before the council during the monthly meeting last week, Councillor Timothy Gaston proposed: “That this council, wishing to maintain the integrity and communal unity of the Ballymena district makes representations to the Boundary Commission against the unnatural proposal to hive off the wards of Culybackey, Glenravel, Kirkinriola, Portglenone and Maine from Bannside and Braid DEAS by moving them into a parliamentary constituency separate from that serving the rest of the Ballymena DEAs.”

The proposals come despite guidance in the Commission’s report that local ties should not be broken by the changes. “No DEAs should have wards sitting in two different constituencies. I would urge members in this chamber that the council should take a corporate view on this,” Cllr Gaston said.

However, the motion was described as “Ballymena-centric” by Cllr Andrew P Wilson. “I’m not sure we should take a corporate view on something which impacts only part of the borough,” he added.

Responding, Cllr Gaston suggested that areas of East Antrim “may well fall under the same bracket”.

The motion was carried after 10 votes in favour and none against, with 19 abstentions.