Regional plan dubbed `the new apartheid'


`A prime example of dodgy accounting," said the Kilkenny People angrily. "The new apartheid," stated the Limerick Leader.

No prizes for guessing what they were complaining about.

"The proposal to divide the country into a `poor' region and other areas in which everyone is supposed to be better off is a scam. Nothing more, nothing less," said the Kilkenny People.

The Government's decision to earmark the west, Clare and Kerry for Objective 1 status was "a device which is based on dubious and selective accounting principles, and its aim is to extract money from our fellow Europeans, by fair means or foul. It is a scheme that will shortly be submitted to the EU Commission for approval, but it is not a proposal that we can be proud of," it added.

It was "completely artificial" and "patently false" to suggest that there was a defined area of the country which was the only one to justify EU aid when parts of Dublin were set to become "the slums of the 21st century", it said.

"The truth is that there are pockets of poverty in Cork city, in parts of north Leinster and in certain areas of Kilkenny, Carlow, North Tipperary, Limerick and in other counties, too. It is outrageous that those areas should be excluded from special treatment in favour, for instance, of boom towns like Galway and Shannon . . .

"Now we have examples of `cute-hoor' politics coming into play. The vote of an independent deputy like Jackie Healy-Rae is vital to the survival of the Government. So, when that inveterate champion of Co Kerry makes a demand, he gets what he has asked for from a craven Taoiseach and Cabinet. The Government govern not in the national interest, but cater instead for the whim of a single deputy."

The Kilkenny People predicted that the Irish will lose friends and honour in the eyes of Europeans, who "will know us for what we have become - charlatans waving our begging bowls at the gates of Brussels."

The Sligo Champion said that "already derisive laughter is echoing through the corridors of power in Brussels at the effrontery of it all." The "virtual blackmailing" of the Government by Jackie Healy-Rae "would be hilarious - a typical parish pump stroke - if it didn't have such serious implications for the 13 counties in the west, border and midlands regions who actually qualify for the retention of Objective 1 and whose case, on its own, could not have been more compelling.

"Eurostat, the EU body who will eventually make the decision, could hardly be blamed should they feel that the whole saga is just a trifle too Irish for their taste," it said.

The Kerryman, needless to say, dismissed all the criticism as "begrudgery", stating that "there is no doubt whatsoever that parts of both north and south Kerry deserve inclusion in Objective 1. But whether the counties of Clare and Kerry actually qualify may be questioned in Europe, because it is already being questioned in this country.

"The Government mishandled the whole thing by initially announcing that only 13 counties would be included . . . If the perception is allowed to develop that [Jackie Healy-Rae] got his way by political extortion, this will be resented by the Europeans."

The Clare Champion had no such fears, boldly stating in its headline: "Euro millions to avert Fianna Fail revolt." It claimed that the "rich pickings" about to be bestowed on Co Clare were thanks to a threatened grassroots revolt of the local Fianna Fail organisation in the county. "It's payback time to the Fianna Fail organisation locally for delivering three out of four seats in the last General Election," said P.J. Kelly, the Fianna Fail chairman of Clare County Council.

So many Irish emigrants are returning to the Republic to live that there is a serious shortage of container lorries to ship back their belongings from the US, said the Connacht Tribune. An Irish Immigration Centre in Boston is now advising emigrants on the complications of returning home, warning of rocketing house prices and advising successful Irish owners of US businesses on how to live in both the US and the Republic without compromising their US residency status.

According to the Limerick Leader, an American tourist on her way back to her native Atlanta said: "Jeez, we sure let ourselves down badly", upon hearing that the Irish defeated the Republic of Georgia 70-0.