There were 45 expressions of interest in total in the 28 LEADER areas.
Where multiple expressions of interest were received, the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) facilitates discussions with a view to agreement to develop one coherent local development strategy for the area.
Minister of State Ann Phelan expects that by late June, support will be made available to local action groups to develop strategies, which will also be assessed by an independent evaluation committee.
Where a single strategy is submitted, an independent evaluation committee will ensure the strategies meet the required standard.
In areas where entities do not agree, and multiple strategies are submitted, it will be a matter for the evaluation committee to decide which strategy best meets the needs of the community.
Ms Phelan anticipates that the new LEADER programme will be operational in some areas by next autumn, and hopefully in all communities by early 2016. “Once the local development strategy is decided on, that is the trigger for the drawing down of moneys”, she told the Dáil.
LEADER will provide €250 million to support development of sustainable rural communities, over the next five to six years, for rural activities including local public amenities. It is 65% EU/35% Exchequer funded.
In contrast to previous LEADER programmes, local authorities may form part of a local action group and in some instances, may provide support for management and administration, but all decisions on allocation of LEADER funding will be made by the local action group as a whole.
Each local action group is made up of representatives from all relevant socio-economic partners in their area.
Technical support for the process of selection of local development strategies will be provided to the selection committee by Pobal, which supports groups and communities with applications, financial returns, processing payments, and auditing.
Ms Phelan said DECLG will provide local action groups with operating rules to ensure that all expenditure is compliant with relevant regulations.