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West Cork Development Partnership loses Leader appeal

October 3rd, 2016 10:05 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

Cork County Council chief executive Tim Lucey.

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THE West Cork Development Partnership (WCDP) has lost its appeal against the decision to overlook it for the delivery of Leader funds in West Cork.

The West Cork Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) was announced as the successful applicant to administer the multi-million EU fund for local development in West Cork at the end of June.

The WCDP, which had successfully been administering the fund since the 90s, soon after launched an appeal of this decision.

But last Friday it was informed that the appeal was not successful.

In response this week, WCDP chief executive Ian Dempsey said it would surprise ‘few people’ that what he called ‘a deeply flawed and suspect process’ should yield a ‘deeply flawed and suspect outcome’.

 ‘The least interesting aspect of this is actually the decision itself,’ he told The Southern Star.

‘Of far greater interest are the reasons why this decision was taken and the manner in which it was reached. Therein lies the tale and it’s one that is worth hearing.’

He added that he, with his colleagues, would ensure that the public record in the matter would be ‘set straight’.  

‘This process is well underway and it will ensure that public comment and debate be informed by facts and evidence, uncomfortable as they will be for some. Whether any of this matters to the West Cork public remains to be seen.  It is only they that will determine what has been lost or gained.’

‘The matter of setting the record straight will be determined by legal and other actions currently in train.  It’s our intention that this is done in a detailed and comprehensive way and fully supported by documentation and evidence,’ he added.

Meanwhile, the decision on the appeal was welcomed by Cork County Council chief executive Tim Lucey. In a Letter to the Editor, Mr Lucey told The Southern Star that an ‘independent third party’ was appointed to consider the appeal – and on review, decided to re-affirm the original decision. ‘This now removes any uncertainty around the programme delivery and the West Cork LCDC, which is fully funded and supported by Cork County Council, will move swiftly to advance the programme for the benefit of West Cork under the branded title of ‘Leader West Cork.’

Aiming a comment at Mr Dempsey’s organisation, Mr Lucey added: ‘The value of working in partnership with the Council was recognised clearly by five of the six existing local development companies in the county that operated the Leader programme up to now. However, the position adopted by the board of directors and executive team of West Cork Development Partnership would appear to have not recognised the changing face of local community activation, where the synergies that arise from co-operative and collaborative action ensure maximisation of resource utilisation and impacts for all communities we serve.’ 

While EU cash for the next Leader programme has been cut from €49m to €13.9m, the County Council has agreed to add an extra €3.5m, ‘where the LCDCs would be the implementing body’, Mr Lucey added. And further pledged that €26m of the Council’s own funds, supported through the Local Property Tax, will be invested in a number of relevant areas, ‘directly impacting positively on local communities’. 

Chairman of LEADER West Cork, Finbarr Harrington, welcomed the news of the unsuccessful appeal, and  commended the group, ‘its three implementing partners’, and Cork County Council for what he called ‘the fresh and innovative’ approach that it has developed for Leader.

 Speaking earlier to The Southern Star, Mr Dempsey said that he did not understand how the three successful companies – South & East Cork Area Development, Midleton; the Avondhu Blackwater Partnership in Castletownroche, and Comhar na nOileáin (Aran Islands) – could provide local expertise for Leader in the West Cork area.  

Meanwhile, renowned author, Alice Taylor, interviewed in this week’s paper (page 13), said she was disappointed with the Leader decision. ‘The decision to remove that responsibility from the WCDP is to be regretted and I hope it will be rescinded,’ she said.

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