25 May 2006

It's another Peninsula War; Inishowen 'ceded to North'

Irish Independent

A LARGE chunk of Donegal has been ceded to Northern Ireland and there hasn't even been a referendum.

A Government publication distributed throughout the 10 newest countries of the EU includes a map depicting the Inishowen Peninsula as part of the North.

Not only will confused eastern Europeans wonder whether a visa is necessary to work in the Donegal towns of Buncrana or Carndonagh, they might also end up searching in vain for the 'town' of Kerry, depicted as a dot on the same map.

Last night, red-faced officials in national training and employment authority FAS scrambled to withdraw the remainder of 100,000 brochures which have been distributed throughout Ireland and in the 10 new EU members after the error was spotted by members of the public.

It's not the first time the remote Donegal peninsula has been cut loose. A similar error was made in 1997 when an Oireachtas PR office released a school video on how the political system worked. It included a map of Ireland depicting Inishowen as part of Co Derry instead of Donegal.

Inishowen, nestled between Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle, is roughly the size of Co Louth and with an estimated 30,000 residents, it is more populated than Co Leitrim. The brochures, printed in the languages of the 10 new states as part of the 'Know Before You Go' initiative, shows it as part of the six counties. The embarrassment was compounded when it emerged that the recently-appointed chairman of FAS is none other than Donegal-born Peter McLoone, whose brother Michael is county manager for Donegal. Another brother, Paul, is regional tourism manager.

"This is just another typical example of Dublin not knowing or caring where the rest of the country is, beyond the Pale," stormed irate Fine Gael councillor, Bernard McGuinness, who runs a pub in the village of Culdaff in the Inishowen peninsula.

"If Donegal is the forgotten county, then Inishowen is the forgotten part of the forgotten county. It is unforgivable that this got printed before it was noticed," he said.

A spokesperson for FAS said it was "an error which unfortunately was not spotted before printing".

"Our primary focus was to give workers from these former accession countries the correct 'bread and butter' information about Ireland before they got here and unfortunately this map slipped under the wire and was not picked up." The second print run will correct it, the spokesperson added.

Other locals are also angry at the faux pas. Raymond Doherty, chairperson of the Carndonagh Community and Rural Development group, pointed out that unemployment in the area was four times the national average, with little hope of new industry. "What I'm wondering now is whether the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and even the Minister for Justice are all looking at the wrong map. It is a disastrous mistake that this map should have been published," he said.

Inishowen-based Donegal North East TD Cecelia Keaveney (FF) expressed surprise that the problem of locating Inishowen in the Republic had recurred.

"After all it is not a fluctuating line, and while we have a natural affinity with Derry, Inishowen has always been part of Donegal and the Republic," she said.

"While I can understand human error, It does not help me as a politician or the people of Donegal, who are trying to promote the area, and I would call on FAS to redress the current impression.

"We in Inishowen are as important as anywhere else, and we deserve the same treatment," she stressed.

Anita Guidera

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