Lack of Clarity on future of LEADER causing ‘disarray’ – Ó Clochartaigh
Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has criticised the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government for his failure to reassure local development companies on the future of their funding.
The Sinn Féin Senator this week stated that this on-going failure on the part of the Minister is causing huge uncertainty and concern in rural areas.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh said;
“A stop was put on spending under the Leader programme over the past number of months, but this was reversed, to a certain extent, just two weeks ago.
"However, there is huge confusion as to where this leaves matters. Companies are unsure as to whether they will have funding to the end of the year, and therefore, are unsure whether they will be able to keep providing the essential services they provide to communities.
It’s totally unclear whether the plans as to subsuming such projects under the county councils will go ahead.”
"There is great disquiet and concern on the ground about this, and to be frank, the Minister’s clumsy handling has caused disarray in the community sector in rural areas in particular, and the Minister needs to be held responsible for that.
"I have seen the concern this has caused in my own constituency, in Galway, and in particular in the Gaeltacht. Since the demise of Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta, MFG, we have been unclear as to how much funding is still available and how much funding needs to be drawn down.
"I have called on the Minister to come in to this house and debate the matter on numerous occasions. However, thus far, he has refused. There are some serious questions which need to be answered.
"We need clarity as to whether the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, will allow the matching funding be made available so that we can draw down the full allocation from Europe. Time is running out on this issue and it is important that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, come to the House to debate the issue.
“Many of the projects that have been submitted for Leader have time constraints on them and if decisions are not made quickly and efficiently, some of them will fall by the wayside.
"We cannot afford to allow that happen, particularly in rural areas where we need every venture we can get to help boost the economy and keep jobs afloat. We need these to happen as quickly as possible and I call for an urgent debate on the issue."