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Government forced into climb down on LEADER issue – Ní Riada

15 January, 2015 - by Liadh Ní Riada MEP

Speaking from Strasbourg today, Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland's South constituency Liadh Ní Riada gave a cautious welcome to the government's climb-down on its proposed changes to the LEADER rural development programme

“The letter sent to LEADER stakeholders by the Department just before the Christmas break show a partial climb down by government on its proposed changes to the LEADER scheme.”

“I have seen the letter, and it does detail some positive amendments to the proposed changes to the administration of the scheme which were due to come into effect this year.”

“I have been very clear that the changes, proposed by former Minister Phil Hogan, and carried on by his successor Minister Alan Kelly, would have been disastrous for the local and rural development sector. These changes would have seen local authorities take control of the LEADER scheme.”

“In November I brought a delegation of key stakeholders to Brussels to meet with the European Commission, where we registered our firm opposition to the changes, and highlighted the many contradictions and problems within the Government's plans.”

“Soon after our meetings in Brussels, the Commission sent a long list of questions to the Government, seeking answers and clarifications, and pointing to serious discrepancies in their plans. I am glad to see that finally the Department is getting around to addressing some of these.”

“That said I remain sceptical given the mess that the Government have made of the whole Rural Development Programme application, and I will be keeping a close eye on developments.”

“It’s important to point out that this whole debacle has led to further delays in rolling out the entire Rural Development Programme, which amounts to some €4 billion in European funds. Rural communities and farming families are facing delays in crucial payments and the companies and workers that have built sterling international reputations in the roll-out of LEADER are facing uncertain futures.”

“Alan Kelly and the Fine Gael-Labour coalition need to sort this mess out, and in the meantime secure interim funding to keep these companies above water and rural development officers in jobs.” 

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