Harkin Slams LEADER Proposals

The action by Minister Hogan to move LEADER companies from direct community management to the remit of the County Councils will catapult us right back to the type of gombeen politics we should have left behind a generation ago.  His belief that the fingerprints of politicians or officialdom should be indelibly printed on every single decision instead of following the EU vision of community led local development where we trust communities to respond to the needs of their own areas, is a regressive, centralised power grab which strikes at the heart of community development.


This was stated by Independent MEP Marian Harkin speaking at a rally of the community voluntary sector in support of the current LEADER structure which was held outside Dail Eireann today Wednesday, July 8th.


She said: “The way in which LEADER programmes have been administered in Ireland is regarded as best practice by the European Commission and a template for the programme for other EU countries.


“On a cost per job created LEADER can stand scrutiny with IDA Ireland or Enterprise Ireland and this reflects the strong voluntary community involvement and the local knowledge brought to bear on the assessment of projects.  We hear of the good work being done by the IDA but jobs created by LEADER at local level have permanence and a return to the State that is unequalled.


“Why then the seeming intent of the Government, and the soon to depart Minister Hogan, to destroy a hugely positive indigenous jobs creating mechanism and hand control over to County Councils with no experience, background, or capability to put a better structure in place.


“LEADER, despite a number of County Councils rejecting a change in its mandate, is to be subsumed into a so-called alignment project which will eliminate genuine community voluntary participation and replace it with jobs for the boys.  This alignment project, allegedly to deliver better local government, is a patent power grab instituted by politicians and pandering public servants of the type which destroyed the country’s economy through their bad decisions.


“This power bloc, the combination of government and permanent government, will continue as Minister Hogan departs to pastures new.  This means that, not surprisingly and based on previous history, LEADER continues despite its great record not to have friends in high places.


“The lack of any perceptible justification for dismantling the current LEADER structure can be seen in the slippery stealth game played by the Minister and his officials who have not had the courage to tell LEADER groups, their employees, and their voluntary workers where they stand.


“Instead, in a thoroughly despicable media manipulation campaign, they have sought to undermine managements and voluntary directors of LEADER groups and in so doing revealed a totally unhealthy connivance of politicians, public servants and elements of unquestioning national print media which could be relied upon to deliver when an exclusive story was on offer.


“The people in the local and European elections delivered a message that the type of politics which disrespects the citizen will no longer be tolerated.  Whoever succeeds Minister Hogan must take a deep and considered look at what is currently being proposed for LEADER and act for the citizen and not the political/public servant nexus which has caused so much unnecessary hardship in recent times.  Their plans, if implemented, will destroy one of the best mechanisms for delivering jobs and development throughout rural Ireland”, Marian Harkin MEP concluded.

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