Those who have responsibility for Ireland’s LEADER programme, appear to be intent on undermining its possibility to maximise jobs and create economic activity in rural Ireland.
This charge was levelled by Independent MEP Marian Harkin when she said that a meeting involving LEADER groups with the Minister had to be called, in an attempt to resolve lack of progress in the current LEADER programme.
“Compared with the last LEADER programme, the current one, which was to have commenced in 2016, in its first ten months of operation has approved no projects in many LEADER areas. Compared to the last programme in its first ten months, the payments under the current programme are €0 while for the first ten months of the previous programme they were in excess of €1.4million” Marian Harkin said.
The introduction of totally unnecessary bureaucracy which included requirements above normal national regulation was stymying the efforts of LEADER groups to consider and approve job creating projects, she said. Examples included procurement guidelines on LEADER demanding more than the national procurement guidelines.
“The fact that there are six parties in three different locations involved in bringing each project to approval stage, and the refusal to allow simplified cost options for smaller projects, are indicative of the excessive bureaucracy involved”, she said. The meeting tomorrow had to produce a much more realistic approach to the management of the LEADER programme.” Otherwise a measure which contributes significantly to rural development will surely fail,” Marian Harkin concluded.