LEADER: millions are left unspent

Gráinne, Róisín, Cairbre and Caoimhe Gannon enjoying the Monivea Fair last Sunday. Photo: Hany Marzouk.
Gráinne, Róisín, Cairbre and Caoimhe Gannon enjoying the Monivea Fair last Sunday. Photo: Hany Marzouk.

THE LEADER programme – designed to stimulate economic activity in rural areas – is failing to get off the ground in any meaningful way, according to Fianna Fáil Rural Affairs Spokesperson, Éamon Ó Cuív.

LEADER is part of the EU Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 and has been allocated an overall budget of €250 million, but so far according to Deputy Ó Cuív, only €100,000 or 0.6% of the overall total has been spent on projects.

“This is a frighteningly low level of spending more than three years into the Rural Development Programme. I am also concerned about the value of the projects which have been approved to date – with only €6.4 million approved so far.

“The average level of grants being awarded to each project – which is in the region of €24,000 – is also worryingly low.

“While these grants are helpful to small projects, it will not create the facilities or businesses needed in rural Ireland to combat declining populations. We need to see larger projects approved, which will help create employment and services in rural areas,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

The Regional, Rural, Gaeltacht and Islands Affairs Spokesperson said that there was now likely to be a substantial under-spend in this year’s programme of around €25m.

“It is essential that the Minister reallocates this money to other rural development projects to ensure that the full allocation of money is spent this year.

“The average level of grants being awarded to each project – which is in the region of €24,000 – is also worryingly low.  While these grants are helpful to small projects, it will not create the facilities or businesses needed in rural Ireland to combat declining populations.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.