Rural Ireland feeling burden of wait for Leader review
A SIX-YEAR wait for the “bureaucratic” Leader programme to be reviewed is far too long, members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture have said.
Speaking at a recent special hearing with the European Court of Auditors, members of the committee called for the issue of delayed Leader funds to be investigated by the EU auditors.
Green Party senator Grace O’Sullivan said that those in charge of development programmes in rural Ireland would only feel the burden of further delayed payments and unnecessary bureaucracy if the Leader programme wasn’t examined soon.
“People in rural Ireland are feeling the burden. When will it be reviewed so we can take action here in Ireland? If you’re telling me we’ve to wait six years, that’s too much time and there is a burden of bureaucracy in the system,” she said.
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carty added that the “entire brand and philosophy” of the Rural Development Programme will be in “jeopardy” if the issues of delayed payments aren’t reviewed.
A spokesperson for the Department of Rural and Community Development said: “The Department’s focus has been on getting projects by community groups and businesses approved, and then providing them with the time and space to deliver these projects.
“The spend will follow as those projects are delivered. In January, almost €4m has been approved and that figure will rise again before the end of the month.
“It is the nature of the Leader programme that direct spend on projects is always low in the initial period of the programme.