It is inexcusable that, with only two years left of the LEADER Programme, Gaeltacht areas are in the seventh month of waiting for a mechanism to distribute the funding, according to Sinn Féin councillor Rose Conway-Walsh. Cllr Conway-Walsh said the reply on the matter from Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan was totally inaequate.
Minister Hogan’s reply reads: “Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta (MFG ), the group contracted by my Department to deliver Axes 3 & 4 (LEADER ) of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 (RDP ) in Gaeltacht areas, went into liquidation on September 7, 2011. MFG received an overall RDP allocation of €17,278,809 which covered all the Gaeltacht areas under the remit of the groups.
“The group is the subject of an ongoing ‘winding up’ process, and, in this context, the final figures with regard to the number of outstanding payments due are not yet fully clarified. My Department is aware of the level of funding committed at various different stages of project life cycles, but a series of administrative and financial checks will have to be carried out before payment numbers and amounts can be finalised.
“Significant progress is being made in dealing with the issue of determining an alternative delivery mechanism for RDP funding in Gaeltacht areas; all relevant RDP (LEADER ) project files have been released by the liquidator and are now my Department. All project promoters will be contacted shortly.
“While no final solution has been reached with regard to the delivery of Axes 3 & 4 (LEADER ) of the Rural Development Programme (RDP ) in Gaeltacht areas a potential solution has been identified. My Department will begin a consultation process with the relevant stakeholders shortly. My intention is that any alternative delivery mechanism will be efficient and effective and applied at the earliest possible opportunity. All relevant stakeholders will be informed as soon as an appropriate solution is finalised.”
Cllr Conway-Walsh said: “I am not happy with the vagueness of the Minister’s response and the specific question of whether community groups will get compensated for interest paid and costs involved in this unacceptable delay. We need to know if new proposed rates will be applied retrospectively to promoters in the Gaeltacht areas who have not been able to draw down grants they were allocated before MFG went into liquidation.”