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Sinn Féin welcome commitment to ensure money not lost from Rural Development Programme

22 November, 2004

Sinn Féin Rural Regeneration spokesperson Cllr Pat O Rawe MLA, speaking after a party delegation meet with held a meeting with the head of the Rural Development Programme Pauline McCloy in Dundonald House to discuss the budgets and the impacts of the four European Structural Programmes for which the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has responsibility, namely LEADER+, Building Sustainable Prosperity, PEACE II & INTERREG has said that it is vital that money is not lost from the Rural Development Programme.

Ms O'Rawe said:

"Sinn Féin are concerned that money allocated from the EU will be lost from the Rural Development Programme as a result of de-commitment. Whilst some of the programmes have not spent all of their money, we have received assurances from DARD that they are putting in place innovative actions to ensure that money would remain within the Rural Development Programme.

"In the range of discussions, we had with officials, we highlighted the impact the Programme was having in rural areas, and the jobs, which were being created. We also discussed the number of applications under each programme, and why some programmes had an initial high rejection rate. DARD should continue to target certain groups such as Young people and the Rural Community Estate under its sectoral programme. It is also important that DARD develop an approach to target the Long Term Unemployed.

"Of all of the programmes, the LEADER + programme is the most community led, and 800 jobs are to be created under the LEADER + programme. The EU have already set out the parameters of a new rural development programme from 2007 with the LEADER model at the centre of that programme. It is essential that rural communities have a strong say in how future plans of their community are shaped, long term development has to have the changing needs of local communities at its heart.

"With the many challenges which lie ahead for rural communities with the onset of the CAP reforms, there is a need to broaden the development of on-farm and off-farm activity, such as agri tourism and land management, expand the market beyond commodity trading into a more focused niche and high quality food production, not forgetting the need for farmers to look at sharing the cost both of expensive machinery and labour.

"The main responsibility for progress on the RDP lies with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development there are responsibilities across all government departments such to provide rural communities with the services, jobs and investment they require. There much talk of cross departmental responsibility, but rural communities need such responsibility taken forward within a framework which has the ability and power to shape departments thinking and budgeting for the needs of rural communities." ENDS

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