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Re-Adjustment Of Boundaries

Volume 149: debated on Wednesday 14 December 1921

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What we propose I think is wise for Ulster, namely, that you should have a re-adjustment of boundaries, not for the six counties, but a re-adjustment of the boundaries of the North of Ireland which would take into account where there are homogeneous populations of the same kind as that which is in Ulster, and where there are homogeneous populations of the same kind as you have in the South. If you get a homogeneous area you must, however, take into account geographical and economic considerations. For instance, there is a little area, I believe, of Catholics, right up in the North-East of Antrim, cut off completely from the South. Nobody proposes, because the numbers there would be in favour of joining the South, that that should be taken away from the North and put into the South. You must have regard to economic considerations as well; but taking into account all these considerations, I believe it is in the interest of Ulster that she should have people who will work with her and co-operate with her, and help her along, and not make difficulties, not merely inside her boundaries, but difficulties with her neighbours as well. For those reasons we have recommended a Boundary Commission. It is not for me to say what the result will be, whether it will mean that the area of Ulster will be diminished or increased. There are those who think both, but at any rate, we propose to set up an arbitration. There will be a nominee of the. Northern Government, a nominee of the Irish Free State, and there will be a Chairman appointed by the Government, and we will take care to get a man of distinction and a man whose impartiality will commend itself to all parties alike.

This is a very important point. I would like my right hon. Friend to tell us, is the operation of this proposed Boundary Commission to be by counties, or by any specific areas, or merely an enumeration of population?

No, no! If my right hon. Friend will take the actual terms, he will find that we avoid giving specific directions of that kind to the Arbitrator. He is there to adjust the boundaries, and he can take into account these considerations.

As between the Northern community and the Southern. He takes into account the wishes of the inhabitants, but, as I pointed out, if that were the sole criterion, you might take away a little corner of North-East Antrim. Therefore, you have also got to take into account geographical considerations and economic considerations. You have also got little islands of Protestants in Catholic areas, and you must undoubtedly take into account whether a given place is an economic centre for one area or the other. I think I have dealt with the difficulties with which we were confronted.