Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East, Anne Rabbitte has expressed shock after it was revealed that the Department of Rural & Community Development has not spent one cent on LEADER projects in Galway.
Information provided to Fianna Fáil shows that no project has yet been approved by the Department, and no grants have been approved to date, despite the fact that the latest programme opened almost four years ago.
“Since 2014 almost 550 LEADER projects have been approved and have had funding allocated to them. However neither of the two Galway Local Action Groups have been paid a cent over the past four years,” she said.
“This is an extremely unusual situation and has serious implications for employment and economic opportunities across the county. The only money that has been paid to Forum Connemara and Galway Rural Development Company are for administrative costs but have nothing to do with the rollout of individual projects themselves.“
Deputy Rabbitte went on to say that the LEADER programme has been hit by serious delays and underspends since the new scheme was introduced under Fine Gael in 2014. Despite an overall allocation of €250m over a seven-year period, only €10.5m has been approved for projects. We’re now more than half way through the programme and the underspend is significant.
“Fianna Fáil has been expressing concern about the level of underspending in the LEADER programme for some time. Recent figures released to the party reveal that the previous scheme, which was rolled out under the last Fianna Fáil government, had approved €48m at the half way stage, with €8m having been spent on projects. “The previous programme saw more than €12m being spent on 300 local projects under the Galway Rural Development Company banner and it beggars belief to think that this time around we have no projects underway.
“LEADER plays a particularly important role in rural Galway’s tourism and hospitality industry and the fact that no projects have been approved to date is extremely worrying. I am calling on Minister Michael Ring to urgently address the delays in his Department and ensure that these important employment projects are rolled out without delay,” she concluded.