THE Government must sort out the mess it has made of the Leader programme if the fund is to survive.
That’s according to Cork SF councillor Melissa Mullane who was speaking after taking part in a delegation of community and local development groups to Brussels, organised by Ireland South MEP Liadh Ní Riada.
The group met with representatives of the European Court of Auditors and the European Commission to discuss issues with Leader.
‘Much needed community projects in Cork are being seriously hampered if not stopped outright by the changes to the LEADER application process. The process is so long, complicated and convoluted that groups are either finding it impossible to access funding or being put off even applying,’ said Cllr Mullane.
‘This is an unacceptable state of affairs. Leader funding has be central to community development in Cork and other often ignored rural areas for 25 years and changes to the application process are now making that funding impossible to access. This is having a huge knock-on effect in terms of employment, the local economy and young people leaving for larger towns and cities for work and education. All these issues, to name just a few, are putting the very future of rural Ireland in jeopardy.’ She also added that the government must sort out the mess they have made of the programme ‘as a matter of urgency’.
‘The groups from other areas in the delegation were just as adamant that if Leader continues in its current vein, then the entire programme will be completely inviable in the near future. Leader is crucial to these communities and for the Government to simply stand on the sidelines and claim it’s not their job, while the programme falls apart, illustrates their contempt for rural Ireland.’
Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South, Liadh Ní Riada, who organised the delegation, said the Government could no longer hide their disastrous handling of the programme behind claims of European bureaucracy.