Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Regional, Rural, Gaeltacht & Island Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív has accused the Minister for Rural & Community Development of sleepwalking into a major funding crisis in the LEADER programme.

New figures released to Deputy Ó Cuív reveal that only €10.5m has been approved for LEADER projects to date – that’s out of a total allocation of €250m over the 7 year programme.

“This worrying underspend is an issue that I have been consistently highlighting for months.  Community projects across the country are losing out as a result of delays in the roll out of the scheme.  Even though we are more than half way through the programme, only 4% of the funding has been approved.  Even less money has been drawn down – the Minister has confirmed that at the end of August this year a mere €157,000 had been spent on projects.  This is a shocking statistic”, said Deputy Ó Cuív.

“Minister Ring needs to start moving on this programme – the previous scheme, which was rolled out under the last Fianna Fáil government, had approved €48m at the half way stage, with €8m having been spent on projects.  The current government’s performance leaves a lot to be desired.

“Changes made to LEADER have made the process extremely cumbersome and is leading to the long delays which we’re witnessing.  I am calling on Minister Ring to simplify the roll out of the scheme and to revert to the previous process, which oversaw a more speedy approvals system and better delivery.

“The government’s spin cannot paper over the fact that the LEADER programme is running well behind schedule, and communities across the country are losing out.  Minister Ring needs to examine the current administrative model and change it to make it more accessible and to get it working for the people who need it”.