Tuesday 25 June 2019

LEADER funding is more of Govt's slash and burn of rural Ireland

THE recent notice from the Dept of Environment of funding for County Cork under the LEADER programme was a devastating blow to rural Cork, and a further indication of the slash and burn rural Ireland policy of the present government.

In the 2007 to 2014 LEADER programme Cork county was allocated €49 million; for the 2015 to 2020 programme County Cork is allocated shy of €14 million, a cut of over 72% without any explanation.

The LEADER programme has helped rural Ireland to survive over the last 20 years, with local voluntary community groups working with their communities successfully developing their own strategies. Since 1999 it has helped 8,698 enterprises which, in many instances, has helped to retain jobs. It has created 4,084 new lobs during the worst economic crisis the country has experienced in recent decades.

It has helped communities to develop local infrastructures and make their own areas better places to live in.

All this has been achieved against a background of almost daily announcements of cuts in public services, Post Office closures, Garda station closures, curtailment of health services, curtailment of ambulances services, curtailment of transport services, threats of closure of small schools and many rural villages with no shop.

The Commission For Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA) set up by the government, has highlighted that unemployment in rural areas increased by 192% between 2000 and 2011, compared with 114% in urban areas.

The government lost another opportunity to help rural Ireland when they failed to take up the new EU initiative "Community Led Local Development' (CLLD). Under this initiative Ireland could have drawn down funding from the Regional Fund, the Social Fund, the Structural Fund, and other funds for dispersal by local action groups and as an incentive Ireland would have got a top up of 10% to implement it. This new incentive has been taken up and is being run successfully by other member states using the Irish LEADER model, while our own government are trying to destroy this model for their own political purposes.

Despite the huge efforts of the voluntary local action groups the government want the control of the voluntary groups given to a local authority quango which would be another unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. I believe the real aim of the government is to kill off rural Ireland and force everyone living there into unban environs, and have a countryside sparsely populated by ranch-type farmers, haunted by the ghost of dead villages.

This scenario was predicted by Dr. Newman, Bishop of Limerick, in the 1950s.

The government today see the local action groups as a threat to their plans. There can be no other explanation for what they are doing.

Over the last two years they have been trying to discredit the local action groups, including the Taoiseach in the Dail on March 25, stating that the groups are spending 30% of their funding on administration, when he should know full well that under an EU directive the administration cannot be more than 20%

It's time rural TDs woke up and fought for the 2.1 million people living in rural Ireland.