Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Agriculture & Food Éamon Ó Cuív has accused the Government of abandoning rural communities following savage cuts to LEADER funding. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government revealed this week that the national co-funding rate for the programme had been set at 39%, well below the 50/50 rate Ministers had promised.
Deputy Ó Cuív said, “These savage cuts are the latest example of this Government’s assault on rural Ireland. Minister Hogan appears to be on a quest to dismantle rural communities by attacking LEADER companies. He’s attempting to take power away from these companies by transferring the funding process from his Department to local authorities, and is now seriously depleting their resources by dramatically cutting funding for the programme.
“The Government has allocated €97 million to add to the €153 million in EU funding set aside from Pillar II funding, that’s a 21% reduction on the current programme and will have a major impact on rural communities that are reliant on the services it provides. Hundreds of villages and towns across the country have benefited from LEADER companies, which have regenerated and revitalised their communities by creating employment and providing local resources. This latest cut to the programme will lead to harsh reductions and place these development companies under increased pressure.
“Fianna Fáil has major concerns about these brutal cuts, which sees LEADER funding cut by 33% when compared to the previous five year scheme. This is yet another body blow to rural communities reliant on these programmes. The Government has broken yet another promise and reneged on the amount of funding allocated to this essential rural scheme. The crucial role that Pillar II plays in rural Ireland has to be maintained, but the current Minister seems to be on a solo crusade to damage and demean the programme”, concluded Deputy Ó Cuív.