Friday 14 December 2018

Leader contracts finally signed at IRD Duhallow

12 projects are worth €247,471 in funding for Duhallow region

Maria Herlihy

Finally, 12 Leader projects worth €247,471 have this week been signed, sealed and delivered at IRD Duhallow in Newmarket. And while welcomed, the funding is very much shy of previous years funding for the region.

The huge dip in funding is equally compounded by a marathon  15 step process previously described as "bureaucracy gone mad." 

While Duhallow has a total Leader budget in North Cork of just over €2 million it is in sharp contrast to the €12 million in the previous programme. 

Anne Maria Bourke, Chair of IRD Duhallow recognised the funding is a "considerable investment" in the Duhallow region and she equally gave praise to the management and staff of IRD Duhallow and the LCDC (Local Community Development Committees) in getting Leader to this stage.

She said it is the fifth Leader programme which will be rolled out in Duhallow and that it has left a "lasting legacy" in every community. 

While she welcomed the signing, she did strongly acknowledge that communities were becoming "increasingly frustrated" with the "convoluted processes and delays," in getting Leader funding. 

"Considering the programme was opened in July 2016, we were not in a position to seek Expression of Interest until the following January and it took 15 months of hard grind to get to the stage where businesses and communities can begin work on their projects," she said. 

It must also be noted that the process for Leader funding now takes a "15 step process" which involves several committees and agencies, which include Cork County Council, LCDC, LAG (Local Action Group) and Pobal as well as a host more. 

Cllr Gearoid Murphy, acting chairman of IRD Duhallow's Enterprise Working Group highlighted the potential of the Enterprise Projects funded to not only sustain existing jobs but equally so to create direct jobs and improve the commercial attractiveness of the towns in the region. 

Jack Roche put an emphasis on the need for better co-ordination of other funds such as Clar and Town and Village Renewal with Leader to ensure Duhallow communities have access to improved local amenities.

This, he pointed out is the first Leader funds to be contracted in almost five years and that nationally, not even €1 million of the €230 million in EU funds given to Ireland in 2014 has been paid out at this stage - which is over half way into the programme. He called for a "simplification of the process" in line with recent European Commission recommendations to speed up applications and to salvage the remaining Leader funds.  

Maura Walsh, CEO of IRD Duhallow, the Implementing Partner for North Cork LCDC in the Duhallow region, and she commended the project promoters on their patience and also highlighted the quality of the projects coming forward from communities with the support and animation from IRD Duhallow's dedicated and professional staff. 

She praised the significant voluntary work of the company's Board of Directors and Working Groups that were instrumental in bringing projects forward as well as the work of IRD Duhallow's Evaluation committee, which is chaired by Declan O Keeffe.  

She also complimented Cllr Gerard Murphy, Chairman of the North Cork LCDC for his considerable expertise in steering this new process and she  thanked the LCDC staff. 

She said Leader is "open for business and projects from all sectors are welcome but environment projects are particularly welcome."