PEOPLE in Taoiseach Brian Cowen's native Co Offaly and Tanaiste Mary Coughlan's Co Donegal earn less money than those living anywhere else in Ireland, according to new figures.
The figures mapping county-by-county average income levels show that residents of Offaly and Donegal earn almost €3,000 less than people elsewhere in the country -- and €5,000 less than people in Dublin.
People in Co Donegal have the lowest disposable income in the country at €18,070, and in Co Offaly it is €19,141. This contrasts with a state-wide average of €21,694.
Average incomes in counties Kerry, Mayo and Longford are also 10pc behind the rest of the country, according to the Central Statistics Office's county incomes figures for 2007.
Residents of Dublin by contrast enjoy a much higher disposable income at €24,038 per person -- although their living costs also tend to be higher.
Co Kildare follows Dublin as the highest-earning county, with average disposable income of €22,636 in 2007 followed by Co Limerick at €21,966 and Co Meath at €21,871.
The border counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Leitrim, along with Roscommon, Westmeath, Laois, Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary North and Clare all have incomes that are between 5pc and 10pc less than the national average.
The CSO figures show that average disposable income soared by nearly €8,000 nationwide since 2000, an increase of 56pc -- but, taken at the height of the boom, these figures obviously do not take into account the effects of the recession.
They showed that a 'two-tier Ireland' existed and this gap was set to widen in the future, said Irish Rural Link (IRL), a group campaigning for improvements to rural communities.
They showed significant differences in income between rural and urban counties, said IRL chief executive Seamus Boland.
"These figures show that spending on rural infrastructure and local services cannot be cut and highlight the need for investment in infrastructure and training," he said.
Unemployment was hitting many of these counties harder than others as they had been overly reliant on traditional industries such as farming, construction and primary manufacturing.
Thousands of farmers had lost 'nixers' on building sites, which they did to boost dwindling farm incomes.
Mr Boland called for the carbon tax to be removed in light of the new figures showing how low incomes were in many counties, claiming it would hit rural dwellers hard, particularly when combined with cutbacks to Bus Eireann services.
The CSO figures base household income on wages, salaries, income from self-employment and state payments.