It is a mistake to meddle with LEADER says Walsh
When the LEADER companies first heard Environment Minister Phil Hogan's plans to 'realign' rural development structures to give county councils and county managers a key role in policy development and implementation, there was a nervous response from within the sector.
It was a case of "negative at worst or here we go again at best", Maura Walsh remembers.
And this reaction has been echoed by more than 5,000 people who attended a series of local meetings in rural Ireland on the 'alignment' issue recently.
For a while the promise from Minister Hogan for a consultation process on the proposed changes calmed matters but this, in Walsh's words, turned out to be "a mere promise".
She says the consultation launched by Minister Hogan was a "sham" because the plan was a "done deal" from the start.
"All we got was spin and more spin. In football terms the minister played the man not the ball," she maintains.
"There was no consultation. Things were going to be centralised as per the minister's plan and instead of LEADER being a bottom up programme it is to change into a top down programme. And it will not work," she stressed.
"Rural development does not work like that. It is a community based thing not a politics-based thing. Having abolished so much of local government it was probably thought it was better get something for the county councils to do," she says.