Major changes which risk the total upheaval of the current LEADER local development model are being considered by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan. In response to these negative proposals this week, rural citizens and community groups along with board members of South West Mayo Development Co are taking action to demand that they do not get cut off at grassroot level.
In a reform measure proposed by Minister Hogan - ‘Putting People First’ it is proposed to weaken and undermine the valuable and well-established working relationships between Mayo community groups and individuals and the local development companies like South West Mayo Development Company. It is predicted that the proposed transfer of these services to the local authorities could alienate marginalised and disadvantaged rural communities who have benefited so well over the last two decades.
“Alignment has many risks where the ordinary rural person will be pushed at arms length out of the system,” warned Michael Biggins, chairman, South West Mayo Development Co. “It is ironic that Mr Hogan would dismiss the fact that the Irish LEADER model approach to rural development is acclaimed as most effective and best practice in the European Union. These changes would see our rural dwellers re-directed to a new unfamiliar system administered by local authority personnel. We are encouraging community leaders, rural dwellers, and farm families to contact their local representatives and politicians this week to highlight the adverse effects that these changes will have on their day-to-day lives.”
South West Mayo Development Company personnel have worked hand in hand with community organisations and individuals for the last 20 years, resulting in long-lasting working relationships on the ground and highly successful community-led projects. Among the valuable schemes are the LEADER programme along with Local and Community Development Programme; Rural Social Scheme; Tús; Community Employment and Local Training Initiative; Rural Recreation and Walks Scheme; and WRDTF funded projects. In the current local and rural development model local communities are empowered and involved in the ‘bottom-up’ process to influence what goes in their own back yard, however this is a method that is rarely found in local authorities, according to the South West Mayo Development Company.