De Valera draws criticism from Limerick TDs

 

The Government's decision to include Clare and Kerry in the application for EU Structural funding has caused uproar in sections of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party and led to serious criticism of the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Ms de Valera.

The Minister of State for Justice, Mr Willie O'Dea, who is also TD for Limerick East, joined the Limerick West TD Mr Michael Collins yesterday in personally protesting to the Minister for Finance, Mr McCreevy.

Mr O'Dea told The Irish Times last night he also took "grave exception" to Ms de Valera suggesting on RTE News that she and the Minister for Justice, Mr O'Donoghue, were responsible for the inclusion of Clare and Kerry in the region seeking Objective 1 status. "I take grave exception to a member of the Government going on the national airwaves implying that they had some inside track which would haul their region into Objective 1 status," Mr O'Dea said.

Her comments had put Fianna Fail's Limerick TDs, in particular, "at a serious political disadvantage", he said.

"What are people in Limerick to say but that a certain representative in Clare must have clout while our public representatives in Limerick must have none. In Limerick we have a situation where we are trying to gain seats on the corporation (in the local elections). We have only one out of 17 seats; we are trying to regain control of the county council. This is a bad start. It puts us at a disadvantage at the beginning of the campaign," he added.

Echoing Mr O'Dea's annoyance, Mr Collins said: "I am not happy about it." One of the requirements for regionalisation was that the areas be "contiguous".

"Surely to God, as the next county to Clare, Limerick should be included. My argument was that we should get the county separated from the city because the city takes us over the 75 per cent GDP threshold," he added.

"I am angry, yes, and disappointed and I have told that to the powers that be. I will also tell the Taoiseach at the parliamentary party meeting."

Meanwhile, he found "very difficult to take what Sile de Valera said" on radio. While sections of the media were crediting the Independent TD for Kerry South, Mr Jackie Healy-Rae, with the inclusion of his county, Mr Collins said he had been told otherwise by authoritative sources.

Other Fianna Fail TDs, who did not wish to be named, said today's parliamentary party meeting would hear strong objections from the floor over what had happened. The decision to include Kerry and Clare in the Government's regionalisation application had "turned the heat up" for TDs in counties not included in the application for Objective 1 status.

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr Hugh Byrne, who objected to the Government's proposals during parliamentary party discussions, accepted yesterday's decision "with resignation".