Rural communities like Leitrim are losing out on beneficial development grants because the Environment Minister Phil Hogan is still persisting with a block on new projects under the LEADER programme according to Fianna Fail’s Eamon O’Cuiv.
Following pressure from Fianna Fáil Spokesperson Agriculture and Community Éamon Ó Cuív in the Dáil last month, Minister Hogan finally agreed to lift the embargo on the approval of new LEADER projects within 10 days. But three weeks later, there is still no sign of him doing this.
Deputy Ó Cuív explained, “Minister Hogan admitted to me in the Dáil that less than a third of the money provided under the Leader Programme has been spent to date. At present there is €100 million of funds that must be sanctioned by the end of the year or the money will be lost.
“One of the main problems is the embargo that was placed on the approval of new projects at the end of January. Progress has ground to a halt as a result. I have appealed to the Minister to urgently lift this embargo and he agreed to do this within 10 days. That was 3 weeks ago and the embargo remains in place.
“Everything is on hold until Minister Hogan keeps his word and lifts this unnecessary and damaging embargo. Rural communities across Ireland are losing out on valuable development grants. Projects that could be extremely useful and successful cannot get off the ground, even though the money is available to support them.
“The longer the Minister drags his heels on this, the more likely it is that money available to Ireland from Europe for rural development will be lost to this country. Minister Hogan must start taking this matter seriously and ensuring that the funding that has been provided for rural development projects actually gets to those who need and deserve it.”