OVER 400 people attended a showcase rally in Cappamore to air their “grave concerns” about proposed Government changes concerning how Ballyhoura Development will operate in the future.
“The key message from the people who attended the rally was, ‘If it ain’t broke, why change it’,” said Carmel Fox, CEO, Ballyhoura Development.
The event was organised to inform people of the changes the Government is proposing in relation to how the programmes managed by Ballyhoura Development will operate over the coming years.
The rally in Cappamore Community Centre was chaired by John Fitzgerald, managing director, Harmonics, and there were passionate addresses from speakers including representatives from community groups, enterprises and individuals who were all in support of the continuation of the services and supports of Ballyhoura Development.
Carmel Fox stressed that the strengthening of local Government can be achieved “without undermining local development”.
“In working in partnership since its establishment, including strong links with the local government sector, Ballyhoura Development has supported communities and clients over the last 25 years to achieve their goals,” she said.
The event included inputs from Noreen Meagher who spoke of her personal journey, commencing with acquiring IT skills having lost her sight; Tom Hayes who spoke of the difference Ballyhoura Development made to Doon and Tom Flynn who outlined the supports from Ballyhoura Development to Lough Gur Co-operative Society.
One person in attendance noted that the communities and people living in the Ballyhoura area are part of Ballyhoura Development – “it’s in their DNA”. There was also anger expressed at the potential implications of the fragmentation of the Leader programme.
John Walsh, chairperson, Ballyhoura Development outlined how the company manage and deliver two core programmes - the Social Inclusion and Leader programme.
Speaking following the meeting, Deputy Niall Collins hit out at Government plans to change the funding structures for the Leader programme.
“The changes will see local authorities put in charge of the distribution of money to Leader companies Ballyhoura Development Ltd and West Limerick Resources Ltd,” he explained.
“I’m extremely concerned about the Government’s plans to realign the funding process. At the moment, Leader companies apply directly to the Department of the Environment, but now Minister Hogan wants to absolve his department of that responsibility and hand over the process to local authority management. I have grave concerns about this move, which is an effective attack on the Leader programme”, commented Deputy Collins.
“Leader companies are a hugely powerful force in rural communities securing much needed investment into villages and towns across the country.”
John Walsh who is involved in the negotiations at a national level feels that with discussions ongoing, there is still room for all parties to reach a compromise.
“Ballyhoura Development has been an advocate for people in the area for 25 years and I urge people to now advocate for Ballyhoura Development,” he said.