The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, is today (Tuesday) issuing the first Funding Agreements for the delivery of the LEADER 2020 programme in 18 counties. LEADER 2020 is a key component of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. It will provide funding of €250 million to enterprises and community groups throughout rural Ireland for projects that are selected by local action groups consisting of local representatives from both the public and private sector.
Funding is targeted at the priority areas identified in the Local Development Strategies developed by the local action groups and evaluated by an Independent Selection Committee. Eighteen strategies have been finalised to the stage where they can now be formally approved by the Minister through the offer of a Funding Agreement. It is also expected that a number of the remaining strategies will be finalised in the coming weeks.
Speaking today Minister Humphreys said:
“This is an important step in the implementation of the LEADER programme, which is one of my main priorities under the rural affairs brief. This programme empowers local groups to address their own development needs, puts rural development back in the hands of local communities, and provides substantial funding in each county.
“One of the real strengths of LEADER is that it can be tailored to meet the specific needs of local communities. Local action groups can fund projects across a range of diverse themes such as enterprise development, rural tourism, enhancement of rural towns and the provision of basic services for hard to reach communities.
“The preparatory work undertaken in each area over the last 12 months has resulted in comprehensive strategies of a high quality that have been informed by extensive engagement with communities in every corner of the country.
“Nonetheless, the hard work is only now beginning and there is significant demand to commence LEADER activity in each county and approve project applications. With this in mind, I am urging all of the local action groups to confirm acceptance of the Funding Agreement in the coming weeks so that LEADER funding can begin to flow in each of these counties.”
LEADER contracts have been issued in the following regions: