Government Regional Policy Fails Laois says MEP

The publication of the CSO County Incomes and Regional GDP study confirms the failure of the current National Spatial Strategy to provide balanced regional development and raises serious issues concerning the recommendations of the Pat Spillane CEDRA report.

This was stated by Independent MEP Marian Harkin when she charged successive governments of failing to tackle consistent inequalities which continued to favour the development of a small number of counties and discriminate against counties like Laois.  It was totally unacceptable that Co. Laois, with its county income per head of €17,705 should remain fixed near the bottom of the 26 county table and with its average disposable income per head over €3,600 behind Dublin’s, she said.

The only way in which this total imbalance of development could be tackled was through a totally re-balanced Spatial Strategy and a commitment in the upcoming Regional Operational Programme to include measures favouring Co. Laois, she said.

“This is a decision for the Irish government which will have at its disposal EU funding which the EU would favour being used to offset the lack of balanced regional development and assist economic and social progress in counties like Laois”, the Independent MEP said.

The relative income positions of counties such as Laois had not changed during the course of the present National Spatial Strategy and would not change without a significant change of policy in the years ahead, she said.  “In this regard the latest income figures clearly show that government policy is failing most counties and the astounding fact that the government department responsible for devising the failed policy is to be placed in charge of the next National Spatial and Rural Development policies”, she said.

If the government was to be taken seriously in relation to balanced regional development it was essential to place responsibility with an economic Ministry instead of the consistently deficient Department of the Environment, Independent Marian Harkin concluded.

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