FUNDING CONTROVERSY The Mayo County Council offices in Castlebar. Pic: Google maps
A COUNTY councillor says he does not want Mayo County Council being treated ‘like lepers’ by government departments after losing funding from the €2.5 million Rural Regeneration Development Fund.
The issue was raised by Robeen-based councillor Patsy O’Brien at last week’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council. He was speaking during a debate on the return of €2.1 million in funding for greenway projects in west Mayo to the Department of Rural and Community Development. The money was returned following an audit that found the projects the funding had been wrongly drawn down for projects that had not been completed.
At the start of January, the Department of Rural and Community Development announced that 27 projects throughout the country will be allocated funding under the €21.5 million Rural Regeneration Development Fund (RRDF).
Commenting on the announcement, Cllr O’Brien noted that not ‘one solitary cent’ of this fund went to Co Mayo, and he questioned whether the return of the greenway money had been a factor.
The councillor said he would ‘hate to think this rumbling in the background in relation to the auditing’ meant that Mayo did not get any funding. “Are we being punished, or do people have confidence to give us money into the future?” he asked. He called on Mayo County Council to write to the Department expressing disappointment about the lack of an allocation from the €21.5 million fund. He also told the council’s chief executive, Kevin Kelly, to ensure the local authority’s reputation is restored.
“We don’t want to be put in this position where we will be left without money into the future. The Chief Executive has to make sure that into the future we are going to be on the right road in order to get inward investment into this county.
“We have got to get back on track to ensure we get funding from the Department and not be treated like lepers in this county for the next couple of years,” he said.
Killala-based councillor Jarlath Munnelly said the Killala community along with council officials had worked hard on an application for an RRDF allocation, and they were disappointed not to receive any. He said he feels Mayo County Council’s reputation is ‘in need of repair with the Department’.
Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle said the reason the county had been unsuccessful in getting RRDF funding was because Mayo TD Michael Ring is no longer a senior government minister. He said the return of the greenway funding is not be something the council should be apologising for.
“We have nothing to apologise to the Department for. We tried to do the work, we did not do it all but if we hadn’t people to take chances and make the applications in the first place we wouldn’t have had a penny.
“There is a hullabaloo when we don’t spend a million but there is no word at all about the €241 million that came in the last few years alone. Everyone is disappointed with money going back, but if it wasn’t applied for in the first place it wouldn’t be going back. It was applied in the full and solemn belief it was going to be spent for the betterment of this county.”
His comments were supported by Independent councillor Mark Duffy, who said he believed that the funding was applied for in good faith.
Director of Services, Joanne Grehan, who is responsible for the tourism sector of Mayo County Council told the councillors that the Council continues to work closely with the Department to ensure projects are delivered and future funding is secured.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive, Kevin Kelly expressed confidence of securing extra funding from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in the future to complete the Clew Bay Greenway.
The project received €2.5 million in funding from the TII in December, and Mr Kelly said that following discussions with the TII, he is confident Mayo County Council will be in a position to request additional funding.