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LEADER groups "under threat" 09.01.13

DONEGAL'S Leader groups such as Inishowen Development Partnership are under threat from new Government proposals, an MEP warned today.
Independent MEP., Marian Harkin said the proposals would essentially involve putting community Leader organisations under the control of county managers. She said the move would "wipe out 20 years of experience" gained by Leader groups in the delivery of EU programmes locally.
Ms Harkin was commenting following a meeting between Leader groups and MEPs in Brussels this week.
"The fancy name for this new process is alignment, but it's really a takeover, transferring local delivery of Leader funds to boards nominated under the auspices of the local authority and county manager."
Ms Harkin claimed: "The reason for this is that local authorities are strapped for cash, and I believe this is seen as an opportunity to use the EU as a mechanism to help fund local authority approved projects rather than an investment in community and in citizens."
She added: "My disagreement is not at all with local authorities but with a centralised department who wants to see the politicians' fingerprints on every cent of EU money."
Ms Harkin said Ireland was seen as a role model in this area.
"The crazy thing is that the current Irish system is seen as a model of best practice at European level. The European Court of Auditors has endorsed it, the European Commission supports it, yet we are about to change it.
"In this, the European Year of Citizens, it makes a mockery of citizens to take this structure away, and all under the heading 'putting people first," the North and West MEP said.
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