LOCAL groups have been assured by Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Pat Carey that he is determined every cent of the €425 million rural development funding allocated to Ireland would be spent by the time the programme ends in 2013.
He met with groups from all over Ireland at the Tipperary Institute in Thurles to discuss the operation and potential of the programme and how best to deliver on the funding.
It is estimated the Leader Programme could bring 12,000 jobs to rural Ireland.
The current round of funding available is almost treble what it was in the previous Leader Plus.
Mr Carey said his discussions with the local action groups at the special meeting in Thurles were extremely beneficial to all parties.
He said it was about addressing any issues that have led to problems in the implementation of the programme and about informed debate on those issues. “I think we were successful in doing that and I am confident we can make further progress in realising the potential of leader.
“I was... interested in particular to hear their concerns in relation to the inspector service. This is an area I will be examining immediately,” he said. Mr Carey told the meeting that without the Leader Programme rural Ireland would be a very different place to live and work.
While low expenditure under the rural development programme was a concern, progress was being made and he was confident any remaining obstacles could be overcome.
“I know that there are problems with banks lending money to both community groups and private promoters... to make up the ‘private matching’ requirement but we must do everything in our power to achieve the required spend.
“In the past number of weeks I know that all groups, in co-operation with my department, have been putting a tremendous effort into achieving the necessary spend target for 2010 and that there has been a significant improvement in the overall position,” he said.
Mr Carey said his department has now begun the process of reaching agreement with the European Commission over a number of programme changes, including increases to the rates of aid.
“We have a staggering €425m to deliver on in this programme and we must all work together and get on with the job if we are to create jobs and see Ireland benefit from this money,” he said.
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