Community meetings took place in Bweeng Community Hall and Laharn Heritage Centre over the last week in order to discuss proposals by the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government to transfer the management and distribution of the Leader funding from 2014-2020 under the control of the County Councils.
IRD Duhallow, which is based in Newmarket delivers many services, including the distribution of Leader funding and any dilution of their current services would be a major blow for IRD Duhallow and the entire rural Duhallow region. The communities of Bweeng and Laharn have benefited greatly from Leader funding provided by IRD Duhallow over recent years, which has helped significantly in the development and enhancement of both villages. Bweeng has received funding to develop their basketball/tennis court, complete a feasibility study on future amenities which led to more funding being allocated to create their new playground and in recent weeks have secured further funding to develop a floodlit amenity walk around their community grounds. Laharn has received funding to enhance the unique tradition of open air crossroads dancing while they have also refurbished the old schoolhouse into a new Community, Cultural & Heritage Centre.
Cllr. John Paul O’ Shea (Ind) who attended both community meetings outlined his concerns on the new proposals. “Leader funding and other key government programmes in Duhallow are administered by IRD Duhallow at present and have a proven track record of delivering these programmes effectively and efficiently over the past 23 years for the benefit of all in Duhallow. I would fear any shift in transferring the management and distribution of these funds to the County Councils would result in a dilution of services and funding available for communities in Duhallow. IRD Duhallow and other local development companies around the county have received high recognition at EU level for their work within rural communities and the European Commission has stated that the Irish model of delivering the Leader funding is one that should be replicated in other EU countries into the future. I just cannot understand with such an effective programme in place currently, the government in what can only be described as a moment of madness would try to change it”.
Both communities in Bweeng and Laharn will be writing to Minister Phil Hogan, TD, Minister for Environment, Community & Local Government in the coming weeks seeking clarity on the current proposals and assurances that IRD Duhallow will continue to administer Leader funding for the period 2014-2020. The government cannot be left change a proven tried and tested system which encourages and embraces a bottom up approach to community development.