Fianna Fáil Agriculture Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue has hit out at the Fine Gael led Government for the huge underspend in Rural Development, Farm and Rural schemes.

The 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme (RDP) has reached the half way point yet only 30% of funds have been spent to date.  Almost €3bn in funding for farmer and rural scheme will have to be spent in the next three years.

Deputy McConalogue commented, “Farmers and community groups across the country are crying out for funding to carry out essential works or rollout local projects but the Government appears to be sitting on its hands when it comes to approving and releasing funding.

“According to the latest information provided to me, 92% of both the Knowledge Transfer Fund (€116m) and the TAMS 2 fund (€389m) remains unspent.  Not a cent has been spent on animal welfare schemes despite an allocation of €100m.  This is unprecedented.  What’s worse is the fact that 99% of EIP funding on hen harrier, pearl mussel and locally led environmental measures remain unspent. Despite claiming to support rural communities, the reality of the situation is that Fine Gael is failing to deliver essential funding for schemes which keep local community projects alive.

“This Government’s maladministration of the LEADER rural enterprise funding stream has led to a bureaucratic nightmare for LEADER companies, resulting in only €6m out of a total of €250m being spent in the first three years of the programme.

“These numbers are unforgivable at a time when farmers and rural parishes are struggling to make ends meet.  Many are facing cash flow challenges and service withdrawals and now the Government is failing to roll out essential funding for important schemes and projects. This anti-rural attitude is the hallmark of this Fine Gael government and is hugely detrimental to farmers and rural communities”.