Council goes to Europe over delays to Leader rural funding

Cork County Council is to write to the European Commission seeking an investigation into why the government continues to stall on releasing Leader funding for rural development projects.

Council goes to Europe over delays to Leader rural funding

The decision to engage the commission was made yesterday as councillors claimed rural areas of the county were being seriously deprived of support.

Previously, there had been a massive cut to the EU-backed funding but the government also delayed its distribution.

The call in County Hall also prompted council chief executive Tim Lucey to say he would ask the council’s corporate policy group (CPG) to examine ways in which the local authority may be able do assist in funding rural development.

Councillors from North-West Cork in particular said their area was one of the most deprived rural areas in the country, and claimed the lack of Leader funding was driving people away from their communities.

Councillor Bernard Moynihan (FF) said areas like Rockchapel, Kiskeam, Kanturk, and others were suffering as clubs and organisations, the backbones of local communities, could not get money from Leader to do even simple projects such as extending footpaths.

Along with other members of the Kanturk/Mallow municipal district, he asked Mr Lucey if the council could provide more funding to the area through the general municipal grants which could help some low-cost projects.

Councillor Frank O’Flynn (FF) described the withholding of Leader monies as “an attack on rural Ireland” by the government. “I’m vice chairman of Blackwater Leader and we’re losing staff because of this. We should write to the EU Commission and ask them what’s happening,” he said.

Councillor Gerard Murphy (FG) said it was “unfortunate that Leader funding isn’t available at this time” but maintained it should be available in “the mid to late summer”. He asked Mr Lucey to see if the executive could earmark more money at council budget time for rural projects.

Councillor Tim Collins (Ind) said: “I’m on four committees of IRD Duhallow and before the cuts to Leader we had €13m on our own.

“Now the whole county has €14m [almost a third of a cut]. And now we can’t see any funding coming.”

Councillor Bob Ryan (FF) said there was an amount of very worthwhile projects on hold while Councillor Michael Hegarty claimed: “I’m not happy with the delay in funding, but the department’s stalling because we haven’t a government in place.”

Councillor Joe Carroll (FF) said a lot of genuine projects were postponed and pointed out the council had itself guaranteed to come to the aid of Leader projects with €3.5m from its own resources.

Mr Lucey said the council was the only local authority in the country to make provision as it recognised the vital work of many community groups.

“We have no control over the national [Leader] funding,” he said, but stated the council would love to be in a position to have more money to put into communities.

“We should discuss this at CPG and look at possible mechanisms to do that.”

Mr Moynihan said all parties were now discussing the possibility of creating a minister for rural affairs, yet the current government was depriving rural people of vital funding.

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