The rich tapestry of Irish rural life is reflected in the 2,500 or so projects nationwide which have been approved for LEADER rural development funding.
Among the more unusual projects getting financial aid is Sonia, a new play celebrating Cork’s Olympic and World Champion runner, Sonia O’Sullivan.
Supported by Ballyhoura Development CLG, Cork City Council, and the Limerick City and County Council, it qualified for €38,992.47 in the rural tourism category.
The LEADER programme accepts applications based on projects which improve rural tourism, enterprise development, broadband, basic services targeted at hard-to-reach communities, rural youth, protection and sustainable use of water resources, local biodiversity, and renewable energy.
Across the province of Munster, under the heading of “basic services for hard to reach communities”, many communities have availed of the Irish-EU funded aid for facilities ranging from 17 playgrounds to 22 community centres.
Biodiversity projects range from eradicating Japanese knotweed in Dunquin, Co Kerry, to bird boxes for swifts in the Duhallow region of North Cork.
Water projects range from protection of a riverside walk on the River Smearlagh at Lyreacrompane in East Kerry, to a Co Tipperary project on surveillance of harmful blue-green algae in Lough Derg.
Nationwide, the approved projects are estimated to have a total value of over €93 million.
In Munster, funding for four distilleries and one cider company indicates that the beverages sector is strengthening in rural Ireland.
Predictably, food figures strongly in projects, whether as funding for the province’s food companies, under the enterprise development heading, or for food events.
There are some well-known food names among the grant recipients, such as Glenilen Farm in west Cork getting €40,721.24 for a mercantile food tourism facility, and Prestige Foods in Co Kerry getting €47,508 for an automation project.
Food events qualifying for LEADER funding include €28,136.73 for the
LEADER also funds feasibility studies, and successful projects under this heading include the Harper’s Island Wetland Interpretive Centre in Cork, and the Shannon-Erne Pilgrim Way.
In Munster, some of the biggest LEADER grants have gone to projects in Co Limerick. A grant of €357,632.97 went to Ardagh District Recreational and Sporting Company Limited By Guarantee for a community sport and leisure astro turf facility.
Adare Recreation & Community Complex Company Limited by Guarantee got €500,000 for Development and Construction of a pavilion building.
Aisling Annacotty AFC got €218,623.20 for redevelopment to create a community centre. The Pallasgreen Templebraden Community Council got €199,132.06 for renovation and upgrade of the community facilities.
Kildimo Community Council CLG got €464,060.73 for work on the Community Resource Centre, and Kantoher Development Group CLG got €183,997.68 for the Ashford Tavern project to transform a disused pub into a community centre.
There was €166,053.86 to Ballyhoura Rural Services CLG for the BRS: Doon Care Farm Building Maintenance & Facilities Development project.
Over 2,400 projects have been approved for LEADER rural development funding of over €91.8m.
A further 310 applications, requesting an additional €26.4m, are at an earlier stage in the approvals process.
LEADER is administered at local level by 29 local action groups, which contain local representatives from the community, public and private sector.
Each group is responsible for selecting and awarding LEADER funding to projects in their geographical area.
A project must be aligned with the local development strategy priorities.
Total expenditure on LEADER amounts to €69.5m since the programme commenced, when the majority of funding agreements were signed in 2016.
This comprises €1.5m in initial costs incurred by LEADER Local Action Groups to develop their local development strategies, plus €31.9m in administration costs of the LAGs and the cost of their engagement with communities to generate projects, plus €36.1m on project expenditure.
The level of project activity under the LEADER programme increased significantly over the last year.
The total funding available under the LEADER 2014-2020 Programme is €250m.
In Cork North, a number of projects have received LEADER grants of over €150,000.
They include Peter Fell’s Competition and Training Arena at Ballindenisk, getting €152,349.91.
Renovation of the Castlelyons Community Centre earned a grant of €179,481.10 for the Castlelyons Community Centre.
Hanleys Pudding Ltd were awarded €146,600 for building and fitting out of a new pudding manufacturing facility.
The Duhallow Day of the Region Co-operation Project got a grant of €158,683.51 for IRD Duhallow CLG.
Hodgins Sausages got €156,586.50 for equipment.
There was a €189,444.15 grant to Mitchelstown Community Centre for conversion of their sports hall, and €200,000 for Mitchelstown Tennis Club’s community and sports centre.
Construction of and commissioning of a cheese dairy at Bo Rua Farm earned a grant of €149,997.94 for Norma Dinneen Limited (trading as Bo Rua Farm).
Rathcormac Community Council was granted €150,000 for their amenity park,
The biggest LEADER grants in Cork South were €112,333.32 for Inniscarra Community Centre CLG’s community centre playground, and €113,660.64 for Courtbrack Community Association’s new community centre.
In Cork West, the biggest LEADER projects included the Whiddy Island Development Association’s Community Hall, with a grant of €243,951.20.
There was €200,000 for the Ballydehob Community Association’s hall extension, and €144,674.04 for Gaggin Community Centre Ltd new access and car parking at the community centre.
Enterprise development grants included €161,800 for expansion by Hassetts Bakers & Confectioners Limited; and €151,254.47 for Wild Atlantic Glamping Ltd.
Big Co Kerry LEADER grants included €146,250 for Castlegregory Community Council’s playground, and €159,608.76 for the Nagle Rice CC CLG All Weather Community Facility.
Skellig Distillers Limited got a grant of €185,000 for their Skellig Six 18 Gin Division.
In Co Clare, provision of glamping pods and associated facilities at Castle Darcy Glamping earned them a grant of €200,000.
There was a youth space renovation grant of €141,258 for the Miltown Malbay Development Company.
The Obair community development organisation in Newmarket on Fergus got grants of €200,000 for a food production hub and €200,000 for the Tradaree Youth Space & Training Facility.
There was a grant of €140,764 for the Ballynacally Youth Facilities Development Committee’s Michéal O’Hehir Community Room.
The Kilmihil People’s Park CLG got €200,000 for the Kilmihil People’s Park Astro-Pitch Project.
Area-based Economic Development Strategies for Ennistymon, Kilrush and Scariff, by the Clare Local Development Company Ltd were grant-aided with €141,000.
Many of the big LEADER grants in Co Tipperary are for Enterprise Development, such as €154,689.24 for the Tipperary Boutique Distillery; €147,905.05 for John and Ann Commins’ Blackcastle Farm Food Processing Unit; and €150,000 for Borrisoleigh Bottling Ltd.
There was a grant of €200,000 for the Una O’Dwyer Ltd trading as Cashel Fine Foods Butchers Daughter project.
The Camphill Community, Grangemockler, got €156,250.42 for a Yogurt Facility Project.
Under the heading of Basic Services for hard to reach communities, there was a €150,000 playground grant for Cashel Playground Development, and €150,000 for Ballymackey FC Limited’s centre.
Under the heading of Rural Tourism, there was €189,358.47 for the South Eastern Mountain Rescue Association’s rescue base project, and €161,154.90 for Loughmore Community Co-operative Society Limited’s Cottage Shop & Tearooms.
In Co Waterford, big Enterprise Development grants from LEADER included €140,895.50 for Kenneally Steel Fab Ltd’s automated drilling line; €200,000 for the Streamline project at Hugh Kavanagh Engineering Ltd; €200,000 for the Blackwater Distillery; and €143,247 for Ardmore Open Farm Ltd’s Glamping Pods.
There were also big basic services grants such as €200,000 to Rathgormack North Waterford Community Development Ltd for the Comeragh Amenity Area; and €200,000 to the DFBA Dunhill Community Hall Committee for community hall renovation.
Under the Renewable Energy heading, there was a €200,000 grant to Declan O’Loughlin/Hydroelectricity Ltd for the Glasha Hydro Project.
SMF Engineering Ltd got an Enterprise Development grant of €200,000 for a Fibre Laser Profiling CNC Machine.
Villierstown Community Development Clg got €178,200 for the Villierstown Enterprise Centre.
There was €152,183.91 for the Waterford Fishermans Hall Development, and €192,337.50 to the St Declans Community Development Group for development of an All Weather Pitch in Ardmore.
The Cistercian Monastic Community of Nuns qualified for €200,000 for a Visitor Centre, and Mount Melleray Abbey received a grant of €144,884.25 for the St Declan’s Hostel project.
Details of all projects approved nationwide under LEADER are available on the Department of Rural and Community Development website.