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New electoral map of Ireland heavily criticised
Under the new scheme, Tyrone will lose a seat and the constituency boundaries will be drawn in such a way that disenfranchise Nationalists in the county, according to some critics Photo: Boundary Commission Report (1917) via Internet Archive

New electoral map of Ireland heavily criticised

Westminster, 15 November 1917 - The Irish Parliamentary Commission has issued its first recommendations regarding changes to be made to electoral districts under the Redistribution Scheme. The proposals would see the creation of 11 new constituencies, while the same number would be abolished. 

In terms of representation, the new scheme envisages five new MPs for Dublin, increasing the number of seats from six to 11, and raising of representation for Belfast from four MPs to nine.

The constituencies that will lose a seat include, most controversially, Tyrone, which has been at the focus of many debates around possible partition in recent years.

Gerrymandering ‘of the grossest kind’
In a letter to the Freeman’s Journal, John Skeffington from Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, argues that redistribution in the county will significantly alter the nationalist-unionist balance of representation.

Skeffington states that the loss of a seat was only part of the problem the proposals posed for Nationalists. He suggested that the redrawing of the constituency boundaries meant that instead of returning three Nationalists and one Unionist, all three new divisions in Co. Tyrone would be held by Unionists. This, he claims is evidence of a ‘hidden hand’ at work against nationalist Ireland. The Freeman’s Journal itself refers to it as gerrymandering ‘of the grossest kind’.

The paper also claims that this new plan shows that the government want the Convention to fail and that the question of an Irish settlement must be hung up until after a general election. If in that election the unionists, as a result of the redistribution arrangement, could show a substantial majority in the North, it would serve to strengthen their demand to be left out of the Home Rule scheme.

Even in constituencies where representation levels will remain unchanged, proposed alterations to existing boundaries are likely to cause confusion.

Objections to the proposals can be submitted to the Commissioners no later than 23 November.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.