South-east and midlands are new poorest regions
South-east and midlands are new poorest regions

The counties of the midlands and the south-east are now the most disadvantaged areas in the 26 Counties, with household income in the midlands and south-east below 85 per cent of the national average for household income.

A rural development conference heard that household incomes in the region had dropped below that in the border and western counties, previously the worst-off part of the country.

An indication of the contrasting fortunes can be seen in the income figures in Waterford and Limerick between 1995-2001. These showed that income per person in Waterford fell by 4 per cent, while in Limerick income per person increased by 6 per cent relative to the national average.

Mr David Meredith, of the Teagasc state body, said the distance from Dublin did not necessarily mean poorer economic development.

Wexford had fared worse than Clare in recent years, with lower job creation and levels of education.

Of those who had ceased full-time education, 32 per cent of those in Clare were in education at the age of 20 and upwards compared to 23 per cent in Wexford.

He claimed the ``urban structure'' in the mid-west, with one major centre in Limerick, was better at creating jobs than the more dispersed urban pattern in the south-east.

Speaking in Mullingar this afternoon Sinn Féin East EU candidate John Dwyer called for concerted action to improve infrastructure and bring employment to the South East and Midlands.

``While the report makes depressing reading, nobody should be surprised at its findings,'' he said.

``Over the past number of years, there have been a large number of job losses in small towns across Leinster particularly in the manufacturing sector and in agriculture.

``There is no sense of a government plan to address these problems and last minute announcements for decentralisation won't compensate for the lack of a strategy.''

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© 2004 Irish Republican News