Speech for Minister Moloney at the launch of the Laois LEADER End of Programme Report

This report is a testament to the tremendous effort invested by Laois LEADER in the development rural communities throughout the county over the past 8 years. It represents a total investment of more than €4m in activities aimed at enhancing the natural and cultural heritage, reinforcing the economic environment and improving the organisational and developmental capacities of local communities in the county.

Laois LEADER is a fine example of the successful implementation of the LEADER Programmes’ bottom up approach to rural development. Through this approach, the Government in partnership with the European Union has invested almost €150m in rural communities over the lifetime of the 2000 – 2006 LEADER Programmes. Of course, it is only with the assistance of the 38 or so LEADER Groups nationwide that the Irish rural development model has become renowned throughout Europe.

I am proud to say that Laois LEADER have played a key role in developing the reputation of the Irish LEADER approach. Through hard work and endeavour Laois LEADER has been responsible for the creation of 121 full time and 97 part–time jobs, has provided essential training for more than 4,600 persons, has assisted 86 new and 126 existing enterprises and facilitated 36 village renewal initiatives.

I am delighted to say that further EU and Government investment in the rural communities of the county will continue until at least 2013. Under the new Rural Development Programme, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs will continue to provide support for the diversification of the rural economy and the improvement of the quality of life in rural Ireland. A total of €425 will be available under the new Programme. This almost threefold increase in funding will provide tremendous opportunities for the rural population in Ireland and will ensure that the success of the LEADER Programmes is carried on well into the future.