Government plans for LEADER ‘dangerous’ – Ní Riada
Speaking from Brussels this afternoon, Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South, Liadh Ní Riada criticised the Government's plans for the LEADER programme as 'contradictory and dangerous'. She stated that the publication of the European Commission's 266 questions on the rural plan laid clear the haphazard and careless nature of the Government's planning, and illustrated their lack of commitment to ensuring fair, fluid and sustainable rural development for Ireland.
Liadh Ní Riada said;
“The publication last week of the European Commission's 266 questions to the Irish Government on its Programme for Rural Development 2014-2020 confirms what I and others have been saying all along.
“Their plan to put vital LEADER rural development funds under local authority control undermines the years of experience and expertise built up in our local development companies, and removes the genuine-bottom up approach that is so central to the LEADER programme.
“The current crisis facing LEADER is putting the future of these companies in jeopardy and threatens jobs, as well as the ability of local communities to direct and oversee the programme in their areas.
“The responsibility for this power-grab rests with former Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who now has charge for approving his own plans in his current role as EU Agriculture Commissioner.
“The Commission in its questions signals a genuine concern that the Governments plan will discriminate against NGOs and not-for-profit partnerships composed of socio-economic partners, while clearly giving preference to public bodies and directly appointed officials.
“I have previously made the point that a body such as Irish Water could conceivably apply for LEADER funding under the Government's scheme that will likely see some partnership companies go to the wall. It seems that the Commission agrees with my analysis and not that of the Department of the Environment.
“I believe that the delegation of LEADER stakeholders which I hosted in Brussels last month and their meeting with Commission representatives has caused the Commission to critically examine the Government's contradictory and dangerous plan for the programme.
“The local and rural development sector in Ireland is vitally important to many rural, coastal, and peripheral communities and has had such positive impacts on small towns and villages. Its integrity must be defended.”