Declassified files: In 1987, broke Irish Government couldn’t even afford £1,000

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The Irish government was so strapped for cash in 1987 that British officials were told that it could not even contribute £1,000 to cover the costs of publishing a report into cross-border water quality.

A confidential August 1987 memo by RB Spence of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, which has been released at the Public Record Office in Belfast, said that a joint Irish-British report into the water quality in the Erne System was due for publication.

He said it recommended upgrades to sewerage facilities on both sides of the border, but that the Republic had declined to bid for money from the International Fund for Ireland to help build such a treatment works because Dublin would have been left with the running costs of the new plant. He went on: “The RoI authorities are apparently even unable to contribute to the printing costs - 150 copies would cost £1,000!”

He added: “The RoI authorities seem enthusiastic enough about spending millions of pounds/punts on grandiose cross-border tourist schemes in the Erne System but do not apparently give a high priority to protecting the quality of the natural resource itself!”