ANY attempt to take funding from Leader groups and give it to other agencies would be a breach of contract, according to Jack Roche of rural development company IRD Duhallow.
The North Cork Leader group board member was reacting to a proposal which the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey, plans to put to European Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, on his visit to Leinster House tomorrow.
Mr Carey’s proposal would help the Enterprise Boards and other agencies create 700 jobs.
However, Mr Roche said: “This idea is a kick in the teeth to the volunteers around Ireland who work so hard to promote and develop their own areas.
“Rural Ireland was entirely neglected until the first Leader programme in 1992. We are fighting long enough in rural Ireland to just have it taken away from us now.
“If the County Enterprise Boards have 700 jobs, that could be fixed within two weeks without any meeting with the commission. Why don’t they just apply to Leader for funding? The Government has signed a contract with us that takes us up to the end of 2013. That proposal represents a breach of contract.”
Mr Carey said his department will to work with rural communities to explore all funding opportunities under the Rural Development Programme. He said funds will not be redistributed away from disadvantaged rural areas.
“The Rural Development Programme has facilitated access to significant financial resources for rural communities since 2009. At a time when we need to explore every possible means of securing jobs, we have to ensure every programme is achieving its maximum potential. It is my priority to ensure the development of real and sustainable employment in rural areas.”
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