SUPPORTERS of Ballyhoura Development and West Limerick Resources were out in force in Dublin for the rally outside Leinster House last week.
Over 500 travelled from County Limerick. They gathered to protest against the proposed local government alignment process, whereby LEADER funding would be administered by local authorities, rather than by local development companies in rural communities.
Over 1,000 have already attended public meetings in the county.
Ballyhoura Development and West Limerick Resources fear the Government’s proposals will make it impossible for LEADER companies to survive and compound the many issues that have “already left rural communities under siege”.
“The move would see a radical policy shift in changing LEADER from being a bottom-up, community-led programme to a top-down, county council led programme,” said Ballyhoura chair John Walsh, who opened the rally.
“It was a huge success and the fact that over 3000 community members from across the country were there is a clear sign that this is a very important issue for rural communities, not just for local development companies.
“We have stated from the outset that we are happy to continue to work in partnership with local authorities, as we have done for the last 20 years, however the proposed government policy of moving the LEADER Programme to local authorities is a retrograde step and one which will see the economic, social and community development of rural communities taken out of the hands of local community members. We welcome the appointment of Alan Kelly as the new Minister for Environment, and look forward to working with him to reach a satisfactory outcome,” said Mr Walsh.
Deputy Niall Collins called on the new minister to “stop this process immediately and to refer the whole reorganisation of the delivery of community based programmes to the Oireachtas committee on Environment”.
“There has been a lack of meaningful consultation and transparency to date in the change process for the delivery of local community services, including the LEADER programme. Instead of simplifying the process and streamlining the delivery structures, the minister is adding further layers of bureaucracy, which is creating employment uncertainty. There is also a danger of contract work done locally being lost to large multinational companies with no roots in the local areas,” said Mr Collins.