Council chief executive Tim Lucey got agreement in principle from councillors to put the money into Leader over the next five years after the county allocation was slashed in the forthcoming five-year programme from €49m to €13.9m.
Councillors expressed anger at the cuts, many criticising the Government for being anti-rural and for putting many jobs and community projects in the region at serious risk.
Despite some reservations, mainly from Sinn Fein councillors, Mr Lucey got support for the move which he hopes will lead the Government to provide matching funding.
Cllr Michael Collins (Ind) said the cuts were “nothing short of devastating” for rural communities and Cork was second last on the list of counties for Leader funding per head of population.
“West Cork got €14m last time, which is more than the whole county is getting now. We built around 100 projects with that programme in West Cork. Now it [the money] will do little more than put a few flower beds around community centres. How can we develop rural areas with this?”
Cllr John Paul O’Shea (Ind) said he wanted Cork’s Oireachtas members to put pressure on the Government to provide more cash, while Cllr Rachel McCarthy (SF) said the 71% cut “would have serious consequences” for community groups across the county.
Her party colleague, Cllr Melissa Mullane, who sits on board of IRD Duhallow, said it would put that region “at a standstill for years.”
“Jobs will possibly be lost because of this,” she said. “I find it bizarre that some government TDs actually welcome the reduced allocations. I fear rural Ireland isn’t been listened to anymore. It will force emigration. It’s sabotage of rural Ireland.”
Cllr Bernard Moynihan (FF) said when the allocations were boiled down the Duhallow got an 80% cut in funding, which was double the hit taken by Kilkenny.
“Places like Newmarket, Rockchapel, Kiskeam, etc are struggling to survive and this will lead to more emigration,” he said.
Cllr Gerard Murphy (FG), who is chairman of North Cork Leader-funded LCDC ((Local Community Development Committee), said there was a case to get increased funding and he welcomed Mr Lucey’s promise of council help and his commitment to seek matching funds from the Government.
Cllr Kevin Murphy, the leader of Fine Gael on the council, said he had no notion of trying to defend the cuts, while Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said the county council was being forced to pick up the slack left it by the Government.
Mr Lucey agreed saying the cuts in Cork “were quite stark” and the county had not benefitted to the extent it should have.
He said that to date €220m of the total €250m Leader pot had been allocated and he had be putting the case strongly to Mr Kelly that Cork should get a percentage of the €30m left.