Ireland North West MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher has called on the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan not to proceed with his proposal to move the management of the LEADER programme away from Local Development Companies into the responsibility of the local authorities.
The Fianna Fáil MEP warned that such a move could result in reductions of rural development funding to the State. He was speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg at the beginning of this week’s plenary session.
Mr Gallagher said, “I would like to raise serious concerns about the future of local development in Ireland and in particular the plan by the Irish Government to reform the delivery of local development actions arising from the Alignment Process. I was partly responsible for developing the first LEADER pilot programme in Ireland as Minister with responsibility for the Gaeltacht in the early 1990’s.
“In no small thanks to the Local Development Companies, LEADER has since proven to be extremely successful in terms of providing community facilities in rural areas and establishing jobs where otherwise there would be no alternative source of employment.”
“Moreover, the Local Development Companies have built up a cohort of highly trained, committed and professional staff. Should this experience be lost it would have devastating consequences for local development in Ireland.
“The bottom up approach as implemented by the Local Development Companies has been identified by the EU as the ideal system. As such, moving away from this ideal system from an EU perspective may have ramifications in reductions of rural development funding to the State.”
“I am calling on the Minister not to proceed with his plans, which are totally contrary to the wishes of all local authorities who have been extremely supportive of the present LEADER regime.”