MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher has hit out against plans by the Government and Minister Phil Hogan to change the delivery of the LEADER programme under Government reforms known as the Alignment Process.
MEP Gallagher also called on the Government to establish an interim fund to bridge the gap between the end of the current programme and the start of the new LEADER programme for the period 2014 to 2020.
Mr Gallagher raised the matter in the European Parliament last night as the impact of the proposed changes by Government will negatively affect how the LEADER programme is operated in Donegal.
Mr Gallagher stated “I have a keen interest in the delivery of the LEADER Programme in Ireland, which is co-financed by more than 50% under the EU Rural Development Programme. As Minister with responsibility for the Gaeltacht, I was directly involved in the design of the first, pilot LEADER programme in Ireland.
“The “bottom-up approach” is the hallmark of the LEADER programme with the participation of local communities at the heart of the LEADER ethos. This approach is recognised by the EU institutions, as a template for other EU Member States to follow.”
“I am deeply opposed to the plans of the Irish Government to change the LEADER programme by adding extra layers of bureaucracy and red tape. This is another example of removing responsibilities from skilled and highly experienced professionals and placing them in the hands of committees lacking the same expertise and know-how.”
“Regrettably, the LEADER programme will face a 23% cut in funding as the budget has been reduced from €370 million to €283 million. Moreover, an interim fund is required to bridge the gap between the current and next round of LEADER funds. I strongly call on the Minister and the Government to provide this necessary funding.”
Mr Gallagher concluded by stating “I firmly call on Minister Hogan, even at this late stage to reconsider these unwanted changes to the LEADER programme.”