Leader being undermined by 'bureaucracy'
The "dead hand of the State" is strangling Ireland's multi-million euro LEADER programme.
This stark warning will be delivered to Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys at a meeting tomorrow in the National Concert Hall, Dublin, which has been called to address serious difficulties in the community development scheme.
Maura Walsh, manager of the IRD Duhallow LEADER group on the Cork and Kerry border, said the additional bureaucracy and scrutiny being imposed on the revised scheme had severely hampered the delivery of projects.
Ms Walsh claimed the imposition of the county councils and Pobal, the Government's project management agency, into the scheme's administration was "slowing rural development to a crawl".
She said administration work for the 23 LEADER companies in charge of the programme had risen at least three-fold under the new scheme, while the "rural influence" within the programme was being diluted by the Government's decision to share the available funding with local authorities based in urban areas.
Ms Walsh also said that rural communities were disillusioned by the amount of time it took to bring vital rural development projects from the drawing board to completion.
"The dead hand of the State is like a noose around the neck of the LEADER programme," she said.
LEADER funding has been halved from over €460m to just over €220m in the current five-year programme which was introduced by EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan when he was a cabinet minister.