Four projects with a total fund value of €103,591.79 were approved under the LEADER programme by the end of 2017.
Figures released to Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Niamh Smyth, show that while a small number of projects have been approved for funding, as of December 31, 2017, no money had actually been paid out to successful applicants.
The current LEADER programme timeline is 2014-2020 but, unlike the previous programme, LEADER is being administered by Local Action Groups (LAGs). It took until late 2016 to sign agreements with LAGs to deliver the programme and the programme itself has been impacted by delays because of the sheer volume of paperwork involved and the multiple levels of approval that must be obtained for each project.
As of December 31, 2017, 592 projects with a value of more than €16.4m were approved for LEADER funding and a further 372 projects worth an additional €16.1m are at various stages in the approval process.
Deputy Smyth explained: “The LEADER programme has been hit by serious delays and underspends since the new scheme was introduced under Fine Gael in 2014. Despite an overall allocation of €250m over a 7 year period, only €16.4m has been approved for projects. We’re now more than half way through the programme and the under-spend is significant.
The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring said he is confident that progress made by the LAGs in the second half of 2017 along with administrative improvements implemented by his Department last year, "will result in a significant increase in project approvals and payments under the LEADER programme over the coming months.