Minister rounds on FF over 'reckless' claims on rural underspend

Minister Michael Ring. Picture: Maxwells
Minister Michael Ring. Picture: Maxwells
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

A war of words has broken out between Community and Rural Development Minister, Michael Ring, and Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary over claims of underspending on rural schemes.

In reaction to claims made by Deputy Calleary last week that there is a €270m underspend on rural schemes - including LEADER, CLAR, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Schemes - Minister Ring stated that there is no underspend in his department, adding that claims to the contrary were ''a reckless attempt to mislead people''.

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''Last year the Department spent €237.5 million of a total budget of €239.2 million (the savings made mainly related to administration costs savings on staff and administrative overheads),'' said Minister Ring.

''For the year to date in 2019, the Department's spend is very much on target."

Minister Ring added that the Government is spending more money than ever on rural communities.

''These are capital projects which can have long lead in times for design, procurement and delivery.

''Works usually take 18-24 months, with the main payments made on completion of the projects. Such timelines are necessary to enable local authorities to deliver projects under our capital programmes.

"For example, if I approve funding for the building of a community centre, the money doesn't leave my Department until the centre is built.

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"It is the job of the opposition to hold the Government to account but in doing so it should stick to the facts and not mislead people. Otherwise it is doing rural Ireland a disservice."

However, Mr Calleary insisted that the figures are ''cogently clear in the massive underspend in his Department up to the end of August. Minister Ring and Fine Gael must be upfront and stop spinning to mask their failure to deliver for Rural Ireland,'' said Mr Calleary.

''Announcements of project approvals does not entail funds being paid out. Once more, Fine Gael is all spin and no delivery to obscure their mal-administration of rural schemes.''

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