Fianna Fáil bye-election candidate for Kilkenny Bobby Aylward has expressed outrage over the level of cuts to rural development funding in Kilkenny. It’s emerged that communities in Kilkenny are being hit with savage cuts of 42% to local funding under the LEADER programme.

Mr Aylward has described it as yet another attack on Kilkenny communities at a time when they can least afford it.

“This is just the latest example of the slash and burn of services dedicated to rural communities. Communities across Kilkenny have already seen savage cuts to resources and local services and we are now learning the extent of cuts to vital rural development funding,” said Mr Aylward.

“The Governments efforts on rural Ireland are based entirely in spin and optics, while behind closed doors they are engaged in a dismantling of rural communities. The savage attack on LEADER companies is just the latest example. The Government is taking power away from these companies by transferring the funding process from the Department to local authorities. This is resulting in dramatic cuts to the level of funding available to communities.

“Worse still, it’s happening at a time when rural communities in this region can least afford it. Our towns and villages have benefited greatly from LEADER companies and the local jobs they have created. There is no doubt that the latest cuts to the programme will be seen on the ground and will have a major impact on job creation in rural areas across Kilkenny.

“People will be shocked to learn the level of rural development cuts targeted at Kilkenny under the current LEADER programme. It’s a major blow at a time that we should be encouraging sustainable growth in rural Ireland, as well as in our cities. It is not enough for the Government to simply say that it prioritises rural Ireland. We need more than empty PR statements. Communities here need to start seeing the crucial supports that will encourage local economic growth.

“The Government has broken yet another promise to rural communities in Klikenny. The crucial role that Pillar II plays in rural Ireland must be maintained,” said Mr Aylward.