Councillors in the Belmullet Electoral Area have expressed their fear that funding destined for Gaeltacht areas will be lost if a resolution is not found to the impasse in administrating funding for the LEADER programme.
Last September, the board of Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta (MFG), which was responsible for administering LEADER funding in Gaeltacht areas, terminated the company due to high levels of overspending and debt in the company.
To date the Department of the Environment which oversees the LEADER programme has not put in place an alternative delivery mechanism to deal with Gaeltacht funding despite both the South West Mayo Development Company and North East Development Company expressing an interest in doing so.
Achill-based councillor Micheál McNamara expressed his concern at last week’s meeting of the Belmullet Electoral Area that a resolution to MFG has not been found and that the funding may be lost.
“The Belmullet area has lost jobs as a result of this and organisations have ceased trading. I know some organisations who have had funding approved but can’t get the funding because they are not able to pay the loans.
“I suggest that we write to both the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Gaeltacht seeking a sense of urgency on this matter and where is the money at. It is not good enough saying the file is in Tubbercurry when the funding has to be spent by 2014. It will end up with funding being lost for areas like this when it needs funding badly,” he said.
It is understood that the figure to be spent in Mayo Gaeltachtaí is in the region of €8 million but the Department of the Environment said the ‘outstanding payments due are not yet fully clarified’.
In a response to a Dáil question by Sinn Féin, Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan said significant progress is being made in dealing with the issue of determining an alternative delivery mechanism for RDP funding in Gaeltacht areas.
“My Department will begin a consultation process with the relevant stakeholders shortly. My intention is that any alternative delivery mechanism will be efficient and effective and applied at the earliest possible opportunity,” said Minister Hogan.
Sinn Féin councillor Rose Conway Walsh said the Minister was very vague with his answers and they needed some answers. She also expressed concerns that with only two years left on the RDP all the money will be spend before groups in Gaeltacht areas will be able to apply for funding.
It was agreed to write a letter to the Ministers expressing the councillors’ concerns and Director of Services, Martin Keating said he would get it raised at the SPC for Economic Development.
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