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Lets celebrate success of LEADER network

22 March, 2006

Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew, speaking in advance of the LEADER awards ceremony in the Glenavon Hotel Cookstown on Thursday evening has congratulated all of the award recipients and to Northern Ireland LEADER network and added that local people, not DARD, have made this programme a success.

Ms Gildernew said:

"This event is to showcase the tremendous quality and innovative business ideas that have received assistance from the LEADER + programme. Many hundreds of rural businesses have been assisted in setting up new business, received support and small grants.

"Some 1,500 jobs are to be created with the LEADER + programme, this is a tremendous achievement for those taking the risk in business, but also for the hundreds of men and women who freely give their time to come together to form Local Action Groups to deliver this excellent European Initiative. Currently twelve Local Action Groups deliver LEADER + funding. At the moment over 700 jobs have been created at the half-way point of the programme.

"Sinn Féin has for many years been advocating the LEADER approach in rural regeneration, where local people coming together to plan for the needs of their local community. They have successfully put innovation, business development, ICT, youth programmes, and small grants at the heart of rural communities to improve economic development in rural areas. The LEADER methodology has been in place for over 10 years within these rural communities, and has on every occasion proved very valuable.

"This type of programme demonstrates how successful planned local intervention can very positively assist job creation. All of the twelve action groups must be congratulated in creating sustainable jobs, which will prove to be good value for money. The success of this programme when compared to other programmes targeted at the rural communities is remarkable.

"LEADER has now been put at the heart of the delivery of rural development within the new European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development 2007 - 2013. It is vital that the success of this programme is placed centre stage of the new programme. We have in the past number of days seen the intentions of DARD to take more control and power to the centre within the department with the abolition of the Rural Development Council.

"If DARD are disingenuous enough to use the success of this LEADER programme to congratulate themselves on delivering for rural communities then they are making a huge mistake; local people have made this programme a success not DARD. It will be interesting to see if DARD are going to engage in partnership with rural communities for the future or will they continue on their current path of removing structures which have proved very successful and innovative." ENDS

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