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Young people short-changed as Irish government to hand back €30m of funding to Europe – Boylan

21 July, 2016 - by Senator Lynn Boylan

Speaking this afternoon, Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan has said it is an embarrassment that at a time when countless research has shown that young people’s quality of life is being eroded, the Irish government through complete incompetence is due to hand back over €30m in European Structural Funding (ESF) that was ear marked for youth employment initiatives.

MEP Boylan said:

“In May, through information released to me and my colleagues in Sinn Féin, through Priority Questions to both the Dáil and the European Parliament, I became aware of the possibility that Ireland may have to reimburse the European Commission €19.8 million in ESF funding.

“I raised the issue in the hope that the Government might try to rectify the situation. Sadly, that has not been the case, and it is now a reality that we will have to reimburse that money. However, what is even more frustrating is that I have now received further information that the total amount of money to be reimbursed is €31.4m.

“The reason this funding cannot be drawn down is that the government did not install the required national computerised accounting and information system (eCohesion) for EU funds to meet the 2014-2020 functionality requirements.

”This ICT system is already overdue since 31 December 2015, when the European Commission stated countries had to have the electronic exchange system in place, yet the information I received informed me that the expected date for completion of the eCohesion system is some time in 2017. 

“It is important to note that these funds are available as part of an overall initiative to combat youth unemployment. Given that the low level of young people in employment as well as a high level of young people unemployed is one of the major issues facing Ireland, it is incredibly frustrating to see something like this happen.

“While the funding may still be available to draw down in 2018, providing the required ICT system is installed before 2018, even then there is no guarantee that maximum funds will be provided. In the meantime, if they so choose, the Irish government will end up spending money that was never meant to be spent in order to cover a financial hole caused by their own incompetence.

“The inability to draw down this funding and put it to work will adversely affect young people in many areas, such as the work of youth clubs and community programmes to help young people to find jobs. This will no doubt lead to countless lost opportunities and to young people yet again falling through the cracks, and of course to more emigration.” 

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