I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this topic. It is necessary to raise the issue because the approval of projects under the Leader element of the rural development programme has been suspended at the Mayo North East Leader Partnership Company. This follows an ongoing investigation into the Mayo North East Leader Partnership Company.
Leader funding has played an important function in the economic and social development of rural Ireland in the lifetime of the funding. It supports hundreds of jobs, some 300 jobs in the case of the Mayo North East Leader Partnership Company. It sustains communities and it is needed now more than ever because of the difficult times. We hear a good deal about how rural communities are suffering and about services being withdrawn. Leader funding is crucial in this regard. The funding comes from Europe but the tap has been turned off and there has been a detrimental effect on various applications in the north and east Mayo areas. I am aware of a grant that has been approved for a youth cafe in Ballyhaunis, while applications relating to the Seosamh Mac Gabhann summer school in Kilmovee, the John Healy weekend in Charlestown and a community centre in Kilkelly have been delayed. This week I was contacted by Ballina Town Council, which expressed its concern at the suspension of funding. There is a mystery or cloud about it and it is important that clarity is provided. This is the reason I am raising the matter today. In addition, rumour and innuendo have been doing the rounds about why the investigation was requested, by whom and why it is taking so long. This is really why I need clarity today.
The big issue is funding. Projects worth almost €2 million are either in the pipeline or ready to be applied for in this region. Approved projects must be paid out while others must be applied for, approved and allocated before the end of 2013. The important thing is that funding is not lost to the region. Everyone understands that there must be strict rules and guidelines and that these must be transparent and above board. The whole affair has dragged on. I am keen to know when the investigation will be completed or, if it is complete, what was the outcome and when will funding be restored to the projects that have been approved.