The Environment Minister Phil Hogan has admitted in the Dáil that there will be a significant under-spend in funding provided by Europe for the LEADER programme.
Minister Hogan was answering questions from Fianna Fáil’s Spokesperson on Agriculture and Community Éamon Ó Cuív, who said that millions in European funding is likely to be wasted as it won’t be drawn down in time.
“We risk losing €50 million of European funds for crucial community projects due to Minister Hogan’s mishandling of the LEADER programme,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.
“The final date for the approval of community projects under LEADER is 31st December next. This deadline is fast approaching and yet Minister Hogan is continuing with his policy of holding back companies from getting on with the process.
“The Minister already had a ban on approving new projects between January and May of this year. Further funds are now being withheld until after the end of August. It will be too late in the autumn to begin the process of finding substitute projects for those that had been approved but will never be completed, as these projects will only have a tiny window to get planning permission and additional finance, and many will be forced to drop out of the process as a result.
“The Minister’s unwillingness to listen to anyone who has experience in running programmes such as this is costing rural communities dearly. His mishandling of LEADER just adds to this government’s sustained attack on rural Ireland – the closure of rural garda stations, threats to small schools, cuts to rural transport and the rural road network, cuts to community hospitals and local health services, decentralisation and so on.
“I am urging LEADER companies should seek an immediate meeting with Minister Hogan and insist that he facilitates them in ensuring 100% draw down of this hard-earned money. It would be shameful for the Minister to allow our rural communities to lose out on millions in funding from Europe because not enough projects will be approved by the end of this year.”