Are you serious?

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The increasingly heated exchanges between Donegal’s Dail deputies were taken to a new level yesterday when Sinn Fein’s Padraig MacLochlainn reacted angrily to a suggestion by Fine Gael’s Joe McHugh that his ‘persistent negativity’ was harming Donegal’s chances of attracting jobs here.

In a no punches pulled interview yesterday evening, Deputy MacLochalinn said his Oireachtas colleage should look at the facts before issuing statements.

He commented: “ I don’t believe for a second Joe believes it’s fine that of 341 site visits by potential IDA investors to this country in 2011, only two came to Donegal. Or that of 239 visits this year so far, Donegal has got none.

“The only comparable area in terms of unemployment to here is Mid West, Clare and Limerick - and this year Clare got 21 visits and Limerick 53. So they get 74 and we get none.

“ So I have a question for Deputy McHugh - are you serious?”

As to the claims by Deputy McHugh he was playing the politics of negativity, Deputy MacLochlainn described that claim as ‘bordering on the ridiculous’.

“The government recently announced a stimulus package of 2.2bn euro, and the A5 road project, which is the most important item of infrastructure for this area in a generation, has had its funding removed. The Derry-Dublin air service has been slashed. Donegal Co. Council has had its funding slashed and it will be slashed again.

“Are we supposed to sit here and say nothing? That we think everything’s grand?

He concluded: “I think we need to get a map of Ireland for the Taoiseach and ministers like James Reilly, Leo Varadkar and Michael Noonan so that they can look at the roads, the rail networks, the hospitals and so on that the rest of the country has and compare with Donegal.”

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ yesterday evening, Deputy McHugh said the temptation in opposition was ‘always to be negative’ but he maintained while in opposition he had always tried to be constructive.

“This country is in a terrible mess - we all know that - but the only way out is to work together.

“Yes, we need to ask hard questions of the IDA and we need answers. But we should also recognise we have two of the top ten U.S. companies in the country in Donegal - Prumerica and United Healthcare - employing 1,500. In Inishowen E&I Engineering and Inishowen Engineering are also doing great work.

“ We have to build on this.”

Saying he had already arranged a meeting between IDA chief John Nugent and local Oireachtas members, Deputy McHugh commented; “Constant negativity is neither helping our image nor our prospects of attracting jobs here.”