Concern for future of LEADER scheme
THE new minister for the environment and local government has been urged to scrap his predecesor, Phil Hogan's, plans to change how the rural development LEADER Programme is to be administered in Ireland - and think again.
Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South Liadh Ní Riada has requested a meeting with the Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly to outline her concerns with the draft submission put forward by his department on the LEADER programme to the EU Commission.
Ní Riada said she was very concerned that the new measures outlined in the submission mark a determined attempt to redefine the LEADER programme from being a genuine grassroots, community-based `bottom up' measure, to a programme completely subject to the political objectives "of whatever local authority and government happens to be in power at any given time".
"There are a few measures that highlight the flaws within the submission," said the newly elected MEP. "These include plans that LEADER Groups will operate under the county development plans which have been responsible for many of the disastrous housing decisions of the last 15 years."
"Also, LEADER groups will have to adhere to new local economic and community plans which are not even developed yet."
Ní Riada said she was also extremely concerned about the financial capacity measures proposed. "I believe this is a double whammy' for local LEADER Groups. Some of them will find it difficult to get that type of backing, while faciliating private companies, state, and semi-state bodies," she said.
"In conclusion, I am asking the minister to withdraw the draft submission and to enter serious and genuine discussions as a matter of urgency with the Network of Leader Groups.
"Furthermore, I am requesting a meeting with the Minister to discuss in further detail these concerns."
She said the new Minister Kelly now needs to take a new approach and row back on the decisions of the previous Minister Hogan and to clean up the mess he (Hogan) has created.
Ní Riada is also seeking a meeting with the Commission in September to discuss the new alarming criteria for LEADER as set out by the previous Minister.