Fianna Fáil Councillor has echoed calls by his Party Spokesperson on Community Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, for Minister Phil Hogan to act immediately to ensure there is a 100% drawdown of funding under the LEADER programme.
‘Already we have seen Minister Hogan politicise and delay the process of grant allocation. In addition he has earlier this year engaged in a ‘smash and grab’ of the allocation made to Cavan/Monaghan LEADER. Now, according to Deputy Ó Cuív up to €60 million of EU and Irish funds will be lost to crucial rural, economic and community projects because Minister Phil Hogan’s handling of the LEADER programme.’
The final date for approving projects under the programme is approaching and no projects, including replacement projects, can be sanctioned after that date. All expenditure under the programme has to be paid out by the LEADER groups by March 2015. There is approximately €300 million available for projects under the programme and to date only about half of this amount has been spent.
‘The Minister should act to allow LEADER groups approve funding as there clearly are projects long approved that will never be completed and the Minister should allow a contingency for this by facilitating companies to approve substitute projects.
‘The country needs all the economic stimulation available, no place more so that regions like our own. The Minster must act urgently to reverse the swinging cuts made to budgets for Cavan Monaghan LEADER and other LEADER companies across the region. Our small businesses need every available avenue for funding, our farmers need supports to diversify and our community groups need funds to develop their areas. Minister Hogan has money at his disposal and it should be spent to create jobs and sustain rural Ireland.’
“LEADER is very important to rural communities and the delays introduced by the Minister into this very good scheme are a disgrace. He has four months now to redeem himself in relation to the scheme and I am calling on him to set about this immediately.”