Dáil debates

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Rural Schemes

3:55 pm

Photo of Joe O'BrienJoe O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Green Party) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. The LEADER programme has been in operation in Ireland for 30 years. To mark this anniversary, the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Humphreys, recently launched the national rural network networks booklet of LEADER case studies. Case studies are excellent examples of the impactful and innovative initiatives that the LEADER programme has delivered across Ireland in that period. In recent months, I have visited a range of projects and initiatives in communities across Ireland and have seen first-hand the great work being delivered by LEADER groups.

The Government clearly recognises the vital role that LEADER plays in delivering high quality rural development projects at local level and will continue to support investment in rural Ireland. In the 2014-20 CAP programme period, €250 million was allocated to LEADER. For the period from 2021 to 2027, the funding allocation will be maintained at €250 million. This comprises €70 million provided for the transitional period from 2021 to 2022 and the recently announced indicative allocation of €180 million for the period 2023 to 2027. The maintenance of €250 million in funding from the 2014-20 period is evidence of the Government continued support for the LEADER programme. I am aware that the €70 million made available to LEADER groups in 2021 and 2022 has already supported a range of new projects approvals and expressions of interest for new projects remain open across LEADER areas.

In discussing the issue of investment in rural development, it is also important to take account of the record levels of investment across a range of schemes and initiatives. For example, a range of schemes have been implemented in recent years such as the rural regeneration and development fund, the town and village renewal scheme, the walks scheme and outdoor recreation infrastructure. Local development companies have been involved in the delivery of some of these schemes, as well as maintaining their role in respect of LEADER delivery. Their involvement in this regard has been very beneficial and is very much appreciated.

Budget 2022 also saw increases the secured in all of the Department of Rural and Community Development's rural schemes and the national development plan, NDP, outlines a clear commitment to a continuation of investment in rural Ireland as a matter of priority. Capital funding allocations for the Department have significantly increased,, from €88 million in 2018 to €205 million in 2025 under the NDP.

At present, preparations for the design of the range of schemes that will make up Ireland's new CAP strategic plan are well advanced. The total funding available for this package of schemes for the period 2023 to 2027 amounts to €9.8 billion. The total funding for these essential schemes for the 2021-27 period increased by 30% over the 2014-20 the CAP period, representing a clear commitment to rural Ireland by the Government.

A national public consultation process on the new CAP strategic plan was recently put in place by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The consultation process ran for a month and closed on 8 December. I understand a number of submissions were made regarding the new LEADER programme as part of this process.

Such stakeholder consultation will remain a central element of the design of the new LEADER programme. The Minister, Deputy Humphreys, met with all the representatives of the Irish Local Development Network ILDN, on 2 December to discuss a wide range of issues, including the LEADER programme. Further meetings are scheduled with the ILDN this week at official level as part of this continued direct engagement.

I am confident that the Government's ongoing commitment to rural Ireland and its continued commitment to funding the great work being done by LEADER groups across the country will help to deliver on the range of actions for our rural communities into the future as set in the Government's ambitious rural development policy, Our Rural Future.


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