There are 35 Local Development Companies operating in rural Ireland, providing a range of integrated supports to rural communities to build bottom-up local development. These focus on community development, enterprise and employment, social enterprise and rural recreation.
One of the best known programmes delivered by LDCs is LEADER. Since its launch in 1991, LEADER has provided rural communities with the resources to actively direct the local development of their area, through community-led local development. In Ireland, under the LEADER Programme for 2014-2020, a budget of €250 million in grant aid is being provided to support rural communities and local businesses.
The LEADER programme accepts applications based on projects which improve rural tourism, enterprise development, broadband, basic services targeted at hard-to-reach communities, rural youth, protection and sustainable use of water resources, local biodiversity, renewable energy.
LDCs operate the Rural Social Scheme and Tús through which over 7,000 staff provide vital rural services including social care, environmental management, pre- and after school services, operating cultural and tourism projects, community services, energy conservation works etc.
LDCs also employ Rural Recreation Officers and the National Walks Scheme including National Waymarked Ways, Looped Walking Routes and Heritage Routes involving over 40 trails and almost 2,000 landowners.