Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada and Cllr Séamie Morris met with representatives of North Tipperary LEADER partnership in Nenagh on Friday 19th to discuss the cuts to LEADER funding, and to examine alternative funding streams.
The Sinn Féin representatives met with CEO of North Tipperary Leader Partnership Michael Murray and with board member Jim Finn.
The LEADER programme is one which encourages rural development by targeting investment in projects that have significant involvement from local community members. In fact, the extent of local involvement and initiative is one of the hallmarks of the LEADER programme.
Cuts were announced to the programme funding in Ireland in March. At the time, Cllr Séamie Morris of Sinn Féin rubbished as spin-doctoring the efforts by Minister Alan Kelly to present the cuts to the program in a positive light.
Councillor Morris said:
“Tipperary’s funding is being cut by well over half, from €25m to €10m, and no amount of spinning can make that anything other than a cruel cut”.
“The LEADER programme is operating in Ireland since 1991 and has 36 local groups which oversee the spending and operation of the program. It has been shown repeatedly as an example of best practice, and one which contributes to sustainable local development projects”, he added.
Nationally the LEADER budget has been cut from €370m to €250m, with only €220m actually available. Cllr Morris is clear that “the Irish Government has clearly not understood how the LEADER programme effectively bank-rolled development in rural Ireland”.
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada said:
“I have been raising the LEADER issue at a national and European level since early last year. Last November I hosted a forty-strong delegation to Brussels on the issue, which included Jim Finn and Patrick Killeen from North Tipp. We presented a litany of concerns to the European Commission who were none to impressed by Alan Kelly’s plan for the programme.
“LEADER has been vital lifeline for many rural communities in terms of funding and sustainable development of rural communities for the last two decades, and now the government has severed that lifeline for so many rural areas.
“As it stands Ireland’s total LEADER fund has been cut to the tune of 40%, yet under the allocations some areas are facing disproportionate cuts of up to 70%. Alan Kelly hasn’t explained the methodology used to arrive at these county-by-county figures.
“The allocation for Tipperary is down almost 60% on the previous amount, which is a larger cut than the national average.
“The allocation of monies before the application process for local area groups has been completed is premature and unprecedented. It is an attempt to straightjacket the local groups that are best placed to develop local development strategies, to undermine their autonomy and to influence their results. This goes against the bottom-up and community-led ethos that is central to the LEADER programme.
“NTLP has been a bedrock of the community here in North Tipp for many years, and will continue to serve the local area under new arrangments. I will continue to support heir good work, and have committed to assisting them in finding alternative sources of funding for community and economis development projects.”
Both Ní Riada and Morris have committed to making themselves available to assist those who seek alternative sources of funding.