CSO figures show that Donegal is still the State's poorest county


Donegal remains the poorest county in the Republic, according to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Disposable income per head (income after tax available for spending) in the county was €13,928 in 2002, compared with €18,850 for Dublin, which, not surprisingly, is the wealthiest county.

Dublin, along with Kildare, Wicklow and Limerick, were the only counties that enjoyed disposable incomes in excess of the national average for 2002 of €16,625.

The data show that Dublin remains the engine for growth of the Irish economy, according to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce.

It said that companies clustered around Dublin, such as IBM, Intel, Wyeth and Hewlett-Packard, were driving economic growth. However, it added that the gap in incomes between Dublin and the rest of the State was narrowing from 21 percentage points in 1995 to 16 percentage points in 2002.

But Aebhric McGibney, the director of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, characterised this as a negative trend, arguing that companies were being put off investing in Dublin by "the rising cost of congestion facing businesses getting goods to market and employees getting to work".

Only Kerry and Cavan, along with Donegal, have disposable incomes of less than 90 per cent of the national average.

Donegal Fianna Fáil TD Celia Keaveney said that the income figure for her county should be seen in the context of the lower cost of living.

"But that is not to argue that we should stand still. We need to improve the infrastructure in Donegal and that, in time, will attract better jobs," she said.

Labour TD for South Kerry Breeda Moynihan-Cronin said her county's poor performance was not surprising given its dependence on tourism. "Many people working in tourism would be on social welfare in the winter time, which does not make for high incomes," she said.

Ms Moynihan-Cronin added that a lot of jobs had been lost in south Kerry due to the loss of industries that were not replaced.

"We don't have the infrastructure to entice industry in and that has to be addressed," she said.

At a regional level, the border, midlands and western region - which qualifies for full European Union structural funds - was 8.2 per cent below the national average. The southern and eastern region - which includes Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare - was 3 per cent above the national average.

The CSO data also show that no region in the Republic now meets the threshold for full support under EU structural funds.

In order to qualify, a region must have a gross value add (GVA) per person of less than 75 per cent of the EU average. GVA is a measure of the value of the goods and services produced in a region and is used as a proxy for economic development.

The GVA of the border, midlands and western region was 91.9 per cent of the average for the EU's 25 member states.

The southern and eastern region's GVA was 147.8 per cent of the EU average, while Dublin enjoys a GVA of 171.4 per cent of the EU average.