Sinn Féin spokesperson on Rural Development, Claire Kerrane TD, and Sinn Féin TD for Galway-West, Mairéad Farrell, have expressed their disappointment at the Government’s decision not to re-establish an Island-specific Local Action Group (LAG) as part of the new LEADER programme.
The EU LEADER programme provides a fund for community-led local development in rural areas, with the aim of enabling local groups and organisations to direct this development based on needs in their area.
A recent briefing note on Ireland’s 2023-2027 LEADER Programme confirms that consideration was given to re-establishing an LAG for the offshore Islands, but that it was decided they would instead remain within sub-regional areas, which are generally determined on a County basis.
This decision comes despite repeated calls from Island communities and representative organisations such as Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, who have advocated for the need for an LAG which deals specifically with LEADER for the Islands.
An island-focused LAG was previously in place. However, during the previous LEADER period island communities were included in the LAGs for their respective county administration areas..
Sinn Féin has supported calls for an Island-specific LAG to support the provision of LEADER in Island communities, both to provide development opportunities for these communities and to ensure fair competition with regard to available funding allocations.
Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:
“That the Government will apparently not re-establish an Island-specific LAG is incredibly disappointing.
“The decision not will undoubtedly be a blow to our Island communities and their representatives, many of whom have advocated on this issue for some time.
“It is also frustrating that the briefing note advises that consideration was given to establishing a LAG for the Islands, but ultimately the Government decided not to go ahead.
“We know that Island communities are placed at a competitive disadvantage for LEADER funding by being included in current sub-regional areas. Including the Islands in broad groupings, usually by County, does not serve their needs and does not support local development in these communities.”
Sinn Féin TD for Galway-West, Mairéad Farrell TD, has engaged regularly with Island communities in her constituency regarding concerns around their inclusion in the LEADER programme.
Speaking about the decision, Teachta Farrell said:
“It is deeply disappointing that the voices of the islanders have not been heard.
“We know from engagement with those who work in delivery of the LEADER programme that there are different obstacles for the Islands in availing of funding and that we need to deal with them.
“The Government have lost a trick by not moving on this.”
Teachta Kerrane concluded:
“This decision is yet another example of communities telling the Government what they need to support development in their local areas and these calls being dismissed.
“When I raised this matter with Minister Humphreys before the Dáil recess she assured me the matter was being looked at. I had really hoped the call to re-establish an Island-specific LAG would be included as part of the new LEADER programme for 2023-2027.
“However this important matter, along with broader issues around Government funding allocations to the LEADER programme for this new period, have so far been ignored.
“It is not too late for the Minister to revisit this decision and commit to re-establishing an LAG for the Islands, and I am calling on her to do so immediately.”