CORK South West TD, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony has said it is simply inconceivable that, at a time when rural communities are struggling, Fine Gael-led governments have allowed huge underspends, amounting to €2.7bn, in a number of Rural Development, Farm and Rural schemes.
Deputy Murphy O’Mahony was commenting after information received by Fianna Fáil via way of parliamentary questions shows that halfway through the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme (RDP) only 30% of funds have been spent to date.
The remaining funding which amounts to almost €3bn for farmer and rural schemes must be spent in the next three years.
“Farmers and community groups across the country, especially here in rural West Cork, are crying out for funding to carry out essential works or rollout local projects but the Government appears to be sitting on its hands when it comes to approving and releasing funding.
“Many of them are basically left running on fumes as they wait on the Government to spend the money they have committed to spend. It’s totally unfair.
“According to the latest information provided to Fianna Fáil, 92% of the Knowledge Transfer Fund (€116m) and the TAMS 2 fund (€389m) remains unspent.
“Not one cent has been spent on animal welfare schemes despite an allocation of €100m. This is an unprecedented failure to invest in protecting animal welfare. What’s worse is the fact that 99% of EIP funding on hen harrier, pearl mussel and locally led environmental measures remain unspent.
“Despite claiming to support rural communities, the reality is that Fine Gael is failing to deliver essential funding for schemes which keep local community projects alive, and help keep our rural farming communities vibrant.
“This Government’s maladministration of the LEADER rural enterprise funding stream has led to a bureaucratic nightmare for LEADER companies, resulting in only €6m out of a total of €250m being spent in the first three years of the programme.
“These numbers are unforgivable at a time when farmers and rural parishes are struggling to make ends meet. Many are facing severe cash flow challenges and service withdrawals and now the Government is failing to roll out essential funding for important schemes and projects.
“This anti-rural attitude is the hallmark of this Fine Gael government and is hugely damaging to farmers and rural communities,” concluded Murphy O’Mahony.