Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) have noted the temporal gap that will arise between the current LEADER programme and the next, and wishes to support rural communities as effectively as possible in this period. We are mindful of the ongoing negative impact that COVID-19 is having on our rural communities, both socially and economically. The LEADER method can assist rural enterprises and the social economy to rise to the challenges, reinvent sectors and business and capitalise on significant new opportunities becoming available through climate change and transition.

It is critical that the gap of funding of 2 years for LEADER is addressed urgently and in this context ILDN members welcome the government’s commitment for ‘Rural Development’ in the Programme for Government (PfG) and the need to provide ongoing socio-economic stimulus for rural communities. However, given the vulnerabilities of rural areas nationally, we would encourage much greater urgency in implementing these important commitments. Local Development Companies (LDC) represented by ILDN are motivated to assist the government in implementing, without delay, these commitments in their respective rural areas.

Of immediate concern to ILDN members is the forthcoming prospect of no funding being available for LEADER in rural communities on 1st January 2021 caused by the gap in timing between EU programmes. In addition to LEADER, ILDN members also deliver a broad range of services to rural communities which would be under threat. The following commitments in the PfG we believe are central to effectively addressing this funding black hole and of ensuring our rural communities are effectively supported at this critical time:

➢ “We will support a LEADER Programme and deliver a Rural Development Programme that is led by
independent Local Action Groups and supported by Local Community Development Committees”
➢ “Prioritise a state-led Rural Development Programme to bridge the gap between the wind-up of the existing
LEADER Programme and implementation of the new programme”
➢ “Simplify and reduce bureaucracy and promote the role of independent Local Action Groups (LAGs), while
ensuring that strong accountability and transparency mechanisms are in place to protect taxpayers’ money”

What needs to happen now:

1. DRCD to fund the 35 Local Development Companies (LDCs) to directly deliver a 2-year National Rural
Development Programme (NRDP) across rural Ireland, in line with the PfG commitments under the Rural
Development and LEADER section.
2. Providing funding (based on allocations in current LEADER programme, (at least) for projects – as a critical
stimulus for promoting the sustainable development for rural areas;
3. To include ‘Administration and Animation’ budget for 35 LDCs with average Monthly Admin Cost of €30,000,
estimated to be €12.6m p.a and €25.2m for the two year programme. A minimum threshold of funding to be
provided independent of LDS budget level for LDCs.

The 35 rural ILDN members wish to highlight the ‘critical nature’ of the issues raised and of the ‘urgency’ required in addressing these issues. As key rural development stakeholders in our communities nationally, we are committed to working with the Minister and Officials in assisting government in realising the above key commitments in its Programme for Government and working to ensure critical rural services are not lost.