Dáil debates

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Rural Schemes

3:55 pm

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I appreciate being given the time to raise this important issue. The indicative LEADER budget for 2023 is €180 million for the period 2023 to 2027. The new programme is €36 million per year, as opposed to €50 million. No matter how we dress this up, that is a reduction. The Irish Local Development Network, ILDN, made a submission to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine because it is the formal managing authority for the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, and, therefore, LEADER. In effect, the Minister in the Department of Rural and Community Development is responsible for the LEADER budget. That is why I want to know why there has been a reduction and what we can do about it.

This unnecessary cut will have real effects on local businesses and communities in my constituency and elsewhere. There are solutions if the Government is prepared to look at them. This is about rural Ireland. For three decades, the programme delivered by local development companies has brought much needed jobs to rural areas and developed rural communities. The aim behind the LEADER programme for the period 2023 to 2027 is to continue to support a community led local development approach to rural development. We cannot do that if we are reducing the budget.

We need to work together to assist enterprises and communities in rural parts of Ireland, like my area, Carlow-Kilkenny, to improve the quality of life and economic activity. Can we consider how this funding could be used to drive bottom-up community led investments to create and maintain enterprise in rural Ireland? If we set this budget in stone, we will deprive rural communities of critical capacity building supports and funding for vital enterprise, tourism and community led development. What we are doing will also conflict with the national rural policy, Our Rural Future, which is specifically linked to the LEADER approach.

Can the Government please take another look at the numbers? The Minister of State will say that there is no reduction, but that is not what those living with the programme are telling me. What is the process and delay in the report of the review of the local community development committees, LCDC, structures? That report will enable the Government to deliver on its programme for Government commitment to empower independent local action groups to deliver the new programme in the period 2023 to 2027.

I also want to ask the Minister of State about the process. I have spoken to many different groups. I have heard from several different groups that there is a lot of red tape in applying for LEADER funding. It has become a major issue. I understand we have to have transparency - everyone agrees with that - but there are definitely issues in applying for funding. I ask that this be changed because it is an obstacle to communities applying. I ask that the matter be addressed.


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