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0.3% of €250m LEADER Fund Spent Since 2014 ‘shocking’ - Carol Nolan TD

21 February, 2018

Sinn Féin spokesperson on rural and community affairs Carol Nolan TD said she is ‘shocked’ to find out that only 0.3% of the LEADER Programme 2014 has been spent since the commencement of the Programme.

Speaking in the Dáil, Sinn Féin TD spokesperson on Agriculture Martin Kenny answered a question submitted by Deputy Carol Nolan spokesperson on Rural Development.

Teachta Kenny said;

"Minister Ring was asked for an update on the status of the current LEADER Programme funding and to indicate how the programme was performing in comparison to the previous programme.  

“It was confirmed that the programme has only paid out €661,844 or 0.3% of the €250 million European Fund, as compared with 4.4% of a €400m fund paid during the same 18month period of the previous programme.

"The LEADER programme spans for seven-years, which was intended to run from 2014 to Dec 2020. However, the programme did not in fact become operational until July 2016, which has reduced the delivery time to 4.5yrs.”

The question was submitted by Deputy Nolan amid widespread anecdotes that the application process of the current programme is substantially more bureaucratic and cumbersome than before and has militated against project promoters applying for grants and project developers drawing down funds.

Deputy Nolan said;

“I submitted the Parliamentary Question to Minister Ring because I heard first hand that there was a problem.

“At a time when Exchequer receipts were at an all-time low, an unspent European fund of €250 million is scandalous. The LEADER fund is, in effect, a Dormant Account.

“The significant change in delivery of this Programme compared to all previous programmes since LEADER I back in 1991, is that this Programme is now being operated by the Local Authorities.

“For more than two decades the LEADER programme was delivered by autonomous LAGS and was remarkable in its efficiency and performance record.

“We are gravely concerned as to whether the LEADER programme can attain 100% spend by 2020 and have indicated that there are still many unanswered questions.

“I will be seeking further insight into the spatial distribution of payments and my colleague Deputy Martin Kenny indicated that he would like an account of the performance of the Programme in the Border Counties.

“I will also be seeking an outline of the Department’s strategy to ensure that every cent of the €200m project fund is paid out to rural communities.

“Finally, I will be asking what measures the Department is putting in place to ensure that none of this fund is de-committed, and utilised to the fullest extent.”

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