Local development companies (LDCs) outlined their priorities from a LEADER perspective ahead of the forthcoming Budget at a recent meeting with Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.

A delegation from the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) met with Minister McConalogue and Minister for Education Norma Foley in Kerry last week.

The delegation comprised members of South Kerry Development Partnership (SKDP) and North, East & West Kerry Development (NEWKD).

Commenting on the meeting, ILDN Rural Development/LEADER chair Éamonn O’Reilly highlighted that Minister McConalogue has primary responsibility for the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) which funds the LEADER Programme.

Noting that the next EU LEADER programme will not commence until 2023, O’Reilly said:

“To bridge the gap to the start of the next programme a Transitional LEADER Programme has come into effect with a budget of €70 million to the end of 2022.

“To date, demand under this programme is high. ILDN are calling for supplementary exchequer funding for the Transition Programme for 2022.”

O’Reilly said the ILDN highlighted to the minister that the LEADER Programme gets development funding to rural areas in the “most effective manner”, adding:

“Community-Led Local Development [CLLD] acts at European level as a multi-fund approach – that is that by joining different funding programmes and instruments you can achieve greater results.

“We believe that there is merit in the adaptation of a CLLD//multi-fund approach through LEADER to ensure rural communities’ benefit from all available EU and State supports.

“Preparations for the next LEADER Programme 2023-2027 are reaching an advanced stage. We believe that Budget 2022 must set out the government’s ambitions for the next LEADER Programme.”

The LDCs representative underlined the importance of the government allocating “the maximum percentage allowable of exchequer co-funding” for the purposes of LEADER 2023-2027 while availing of the maximum drawdown from the EAFRD.

O’Reilly concluded stating: “The ILDN are also seeking implementation of the Programme for Government commitment to deliver LEADER through Independent Local Action Groups supported by Local Community Development Committees.”