THREE parties have lodged objections to a re-drawing of constituency boundaries which would see Carnlough split from the rest of the Larne borough to become part of a realigned North Antrim.
Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance have made representations to the Boundaries Commission for Northern Ireland, which last week published submissions received in response to provisional proposals announced in September, 2011.
The transfer of various wards across the Province is the consequence of reducing the number of parliamentary constituencies from 18 to 16 before the next General Election. The commission has now invited public comments on the submissions, to reach it before February 27.
The boundaries changes effectively scrap East Antrim (which is roughly 15,000 below the new electoral quota), with much of the existing constituency helping to form a new Mid-Antrim along with a large part of the Ballymena borough.
However, the transfer of Glenwhirry, Kells, Grange, Ballee, Ballykeel, Moat, Castle Demesne, Summerfield, Fair Green, Dunclug, Harryville, Ardeevin, Park, Ballyloughan, Academy, Galgorm and Ahoghill to Mid-Antrim, would leave the new North Antrim under-subscribed, requiring the transfer of Glendun, Glenaan, Glenariff and Carnlough from East Antrim along with Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart from East Londonderry to bring it close to the quota.
In its submissions, Alliance argued that the proposed North Antrim, which the party described as “one of the larger constituencies” does not need to include Carnlough with its 1,442 electorate. Alliance urged that the ward should be part of Mid-Antrim “to retain the integrity of Larne borough”.
Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan maintained that Carnlough has “greater association and affinity” with Larne and Ballymena than with Ballycastle. He pointed out that all the other 14 wards in Larne are to be in Mid-Antrim and agreed that the newly aligned North Antrim is big enough without the addition of Carnlough.
Carnlough councillor James McKeown (Sinn Fein) asked the commission to review the proposal, stating: “Carnlough has always seen Larne or Ballymena as the main centres for many aspects of daily life, such as shopping, education, health provision, employment, sport and recreation and many other services and facilities.
“Carnlough looks to either Larne or Ballymena in terms of transport connectivity with the rest of the country, the main rail and bus terminals being there.”
He added: “There is a very strong sense of community and common purpose in the Coast Road area, of which Carnlough is an integral and vital part. I believe that this would be seriously damaged and diminished if Carnlough were put into a different parliamentary constituency.”
Addressing a commission hearing in Ballymena in October, SDLP chief executive Michael Savage also called for a re-drawing of the boundary, saying: “Carnlough was the only Larne Borough Council ward that was excluded from the Mid-Antrim area.
“I believe that it is part of the lower Glens and the lower rural area that would link in towards both Larne, the Carnlough area, Glenarm, Carncastle and in towards Broughshane and Ballymena through the Slemish ward.”