Mr. Alan Kelly T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, and Ms. Ann Phelan, TD Minister of State for Rural Affairs launched the €250 million Rural Development Programme.
The funding, which will support the delivery of the LEADER programme to rural areas out to 2020 will focus on tackling rural isolation, generating employment and stimulating village renewal. Each local area will have to develop a strategy on how best to apply this funding for rural areas and expressions of interest in how to spend the funding are being sought from local LEADER companies and others from today.
Ireland will conduct a two stage selection process that will seek to secure high quality Local Development Strategies that will complement the economic development work being carried out by local authorities.
The first stage which is being launched today is an open call for expressions of interest from any group that can show broad local and community participation and wishes to be considered as a Local Action Group for the purposes of the delivery of LEADER interventions in their respective areas.
Minister Kelly said that “This funding is about community participation, boosting employment and tackling rural isolation. That is why I am delighted to launch this programme in the Cottage in Loughmore, Co.Tipperary – a place where the community worked to reinvigorate the village by thinking outside the box and establishing a local co-operative tea-shop that is now thriving through voluntary effort. I want to see this replicated in more places throughout the country.
“LEADER has supported so many successful businesses that are at the forefront of rural innovation. However in the past, too much of this funding was used for local historical books or to develop rural tourism brochures. This time it has to be spent on projects that will sustain employment in a community.”
Minister Phelan added “I am delighted to be launching the LEADER strategy selection process that will allow Local Action Groups all over the country to express an interest in supporting the delivery of LEADER funding over the next 5-6 years. I too am confident that these resources will support the sustainable development of rural communities the length and breadth of this country” I look forward to seeing and hearing about the projects that will be funded in rural areas as a result of this funding which will, I have no doubt, make a real difference in the lives of many rural communities”.