Environment Minister Phil Hogan is putting hundreds of millions of euros from the EU at risk if he goes ahead with a "meddling" plan to put funds for rural development into the control of local authorities, claims the EU-funded Leader East programme which supports enterprise and community projects in rural areas.
They said Mr Hogan's 'Putting People First' plan, which aims to revamp local government, would see EU funds to support start-ups, training and rural development passed into the control of local authorities.
The group, which represents 11 eastern counties, said the Irish Leader model has become the EU-wide example for rural and community development. Leader East claims that based on the current budget the State would suffer an immediate loss of €42m or 10 per cent in future EU rounds. This was because the EU proposes to pay a premium of 10 per cent extra in funds to states that use the favoured Irish model.
"It is frustrating that Minister Hogan is proposing to destroy this system at a time when the EU wants to use the Irish model as the way forward for local development," said spokesman Chris Byrne. "If the minister has his way, Ireland will lose 10 per cent of our current €425m funding. This is meddling on a grand scale by the minister."
However, a Department of the Environment statement said the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 will be based on relevant EU regulations and will primarily be the responsibility of the relevant departments – Agriculture, Food and Marine and Environment, Community and Local Government.