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LEADER funds a ‘slap in the face' to communities

December 7th, 2015 7:15 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Ian Dempsey of WCDP: woes will make IFA look ‘like a teddy bears' picnic'.

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PLANNED changes to the LEADER funds for local communities will make the IFA woes ‘look like a teddy bears’ picnic’ compared to what’s coming down the line, a meeting in Macroom was told on Monday night.

The meeting ¬ organised by IRD Duhallow in The Castle Hotel in Macroom – heard that the boundaries for the next round of funding, for the years 2016-2020, have been changed. 

This means that some West Cork and Mid Cork regions are now under the authority of IRD Duhallow – which currently serves areas of North Cork.

The meeting heard the budget for these areas has been slashed, and the new areas would all have to compete for just €142,500 over five years.

There was also strong criticism of the way the changes were communicated, with some speakers saying they only found out the previous night. 

‘The line of communication is disgraceful and we were never informed that this had changed,’ said Noel Howard, chairman of Kilmurry Historical Archaeological Association. ‘We were always dealing with the WCDP and it’s hard to understand how they’ve come up these new boundaries.’

Ian Dempsey, CEO of the West Cork Development Partnership (WCDP) told the meeting the WCDP had been active and had supported many projects in the Mid Cork region

‘Potentially what kicked off in Macroom on Monday with the announcement of the boundary changes and the budget begs so many questions,’ he told The Southern Star this week. ‘Those questions are leading to more, and where all this potentially goes is going to continue to raise an awful lot of potentially very interesting issues,’ said Mr Dempsey.

‘It’s very clear that the process has been manipulated and this will play out in a spectacular way, making the IFA woes look like a teddy bears’ picnic. We’re not folding our cards and it’s important that people know that.’

Community leaders were effectively told that the budget for their areas has been slashed and they would all have to compete for a smaller share of funds available. 

Maire Walsh, CEO of IRD Duhallow said the projected budget for the additional communities is €142,500 over the next five years.

‘For people working in the voluntary community sector, it’s a slap in the face, and it’s all very confusing for people,’ added Ian Dempsey.

‘LEADER is meant to be community-led but it’s certainly our view that what is actually happening now is nothing of the sort. There is a very big disconnect taking place.’

‘I think there’s a real problem for communities hearing this now. Every community should at least have legitimate expectations, but asking them to sit down and see what they can do with that amount of money was a gross insult.’

However, Maire Walsh, CEO of IRD Duhallow said they haven’t given up the fight just yet.

‘We have €142,500 which is an insult of the highest order,’ she said. ‘We will lobby strongly as it’s totally inadequate,’ she said.

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