Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal Charlie McConalogue says the current Leader programme is not working for rural companies.  More than three years after the latest round of applications opened, not one cent has been spent on projects to date.  New information released to Fianna Fáil has also revealed that only 15 projects have been approved for funding since 2014.

Deputy McConalogue commented, “It beggars belief that we are now halfway through the Leader programme and companies are still to receive their funding allocations.  What’s worse is the fact that in the three years since the applications process opened an only 15 projects have been approved for funding.

“Almost 300 expressions of interest from Donegal companies were lodged under the Leader scheme, worth over €11m.  Not one has been approved to date.  Those figures speak for themselves.

“This data is a damning indictment of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Rural, Regional & Gaeltacht Affairs and the completely ineffective way that it’s being run.  The new Leader programme is an absolute shambles and a bureaucratic nightmare. There are up to 18 stages involved in the assessment process as well as endless red tape as the European Union, Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs, Pobal, LDCs and local groups are all involved in the approval process, even for very small grants.

“When Leader was established it was a community programme, but it has now become overcomplicated and dominated by red tape.  It’s completely cumbersome and now we are seeing the extraordinary delays which have been brought about as a result of the excessive bureaucracy.

“I am calling on Minister Humphreys to overhaul the Leader programme structure to make it more user-friendly and to ensure that applications are processed and approved without delay.  The current system is completely dysfunctional and is not serving the purpose for which it was designed.  Communities in Donegal have benefitted from Leader in the past and do not want to lose out on essential funding into the future”.