Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South Liadh Ní Riada has condemned the Fine Gael and Labour government for its “failure to protect rural and coastal communities” and criticised its attempts to “seize control of community-led development programmes”.
Speaking in Ennis on Friday following a day of meetings in County Clare, Ní Riada defended the role of local community groups in the delivery of the LEADER programme.
Liadh Ní Riada said; “Today I met with representatives of Clare Local Development Company including CEO Dóirín Graham. I was briefed on the vital community development work undertaken by CLDC in the county, and on the ‘alignment’ process proposed by the Department of the Environment, which will have a huge negative impact on their work.
“Its clear to me that this process is little more than a power-grab by government to take control of the Leader programme from grassroots community-based organisations and give it to county managers and local authorities.
“Local and rural development in Ireland has long been used as a model for best practice across Europe, and the bottom-up community-led structure of local Leader groups is widely praised.
“Local development companies have the experience, the expertise and the track-record in delivering successful projects and in supporting community organisations. It is vital that their role is protected. It is crucial that the grassroots and community-led structure that is central to the ethos of Leader is maintained.
“Clare Local Development Network needs to be the primary organisation administering Leader funding in County Clare. Local authority management in the county must work to ensure that CLDC is able to continue its good work, no matter the diktats from Dublin,” she said.