Pat the Cope Gallagher MEP has today described as “inexplicable” plans by Minister Phil Hogan to change how the LEADER programme is managed and delivered in Ireland.

Reforms proposed by Minister Phil Hogan known as the Alignment Process will remove from local development companies across Ireland the responsibility to manage the LEADER programme. It is proposed by the Minister that local authorities instead manage the LEADER programme.

The LEADER programme is funded under the EU Rural Development programme and supports entrepreneurs and community groups interested in establishing a business or a service in rural areas.

Mr Gallagher said today, “The “bottom-up approach” is the hallmark of the LEADER programme with the participation of local communities at the heart of the LEADER ethos. This approach is recognised by the EU institutions, as a template for other EU Member States to follow.

“I am deeply opposed to the plans of the Irish Government to change the LEADER programme by adding extra layers of bureaucracy and red tape. This is another example of removing responsibilities from skilled and highly experienced professionals and placing them in the hands of committees lacking the same expertise and know-how.

“I strongly call on Minister Hogan and the Government even at this late stage to reconsider and halt these unwanted changes to the LEADER programme in Ireland”.