Concern at plans to regionalise State grows within FF


A Minister of State is the latest member of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party to express concern at plans to regionalise the State for the purpose of EU funding.

Mr Hugh Byrne, who has responsibility for marine and natural resources, told yesterday's meeting of his parliamentary party that he was deeply concerned that artificial "economic borders" would be created if Ireland was divided into rich and poor areas.

Although the decision about regionalisation had been deferred until next week's parliamentary party meeting, Mr Byrne raised the question and said he wanted the matter fully debated before any decision was made.

His unease was reflected by two colleagues, Mr Liam Aylward TD and Senator Michael Lanigan.

A groundswell of opposition to regionalisation has been growing in recent weeks among Fianna Fail politicians based outside the Border, western and midland counties that are expected to be designated for Objective 1 status. A number of the party's Dublin TDs have already voiced their reservations and called for appropriate spending in economic black spots in Objective 1 in-transition areas.

According to Mr Byrne, there is concern about how the regions will be determined.

A community organisation in south-west Kerry has attacked what it terms the "bogus" debate on EU funding. The Integrated Resource Development Waterville Ltd said the exclusion of the Kerry area from Objective 1 would be outrageous and disastrous.

"The pretence that all areas outside the 13-county area proposed by Objective 1 status are richer and more developed is fundamentally flawed and dishonest."

Meanwhile, the Minister for Finance, Mr McCreevy, is expected to present the Fianna Fail parliamentary party next week with a detailed briefing of the options.