Irish Water can hijack LEADER funds – Ní Riada
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has today revealed that Irish Water will be able to apply for LEADER funding under the new alignment regime introduced by former Minister Phil Hogan.
Liadh Ní Riada made the revelations as she prepares to welcome a delegation of key stakeholders from the rural and local development sector to Brussels. The delegation will meet with representatives from the European Commission and the Irish Government.
Ní Riada said:
“Minister Alan Kelly is content to follow the lead of his predecessor Phil Hogan in undermining local development companies. These companies have twenty years’ experience in delivering innovative, sustainable and locally designed development plans that address local need, support communities and promote employment.
“This Government's attempts to take control of vital European funding for rural communities, and remove it from the hands of genuine local and bottom-up development organisations, has hit a new low.
“Under new regulations contained in Ireland's Rural Development Program 2014-2020 private and state organisations will be able to apply to the new local authority-led development committees for LEADER funding.
“LEADER funding is hugely important to support communities and economic development in small towns and rural areas. It must not become a political slush fund in the hands of the Department of the Environment.”
“The Government's plans to take control of LEADER from local development companies and give it to local authorities will cost jobs, threaten the future of these community companies, and weaken services in small towns and rural areas.”
“As if that wasn't bad enough, the plans emanating from Alan Kelly's department are leading to widespread confusion and uncertainty. Local authority members are not sure where they stand on, and the European Commission is withholding its approval for Ireland's Rural Development Programme pending clarification on over 250 aspects of the plan.”
“I will bring a group of forty key stakeholders, representing community organisations, rural development workers, development company management, farmers, trade unions and experts to Brussels next Tuesday to raise their concerns with the European Commission and Irish Government representatives.”