I propose to take Questions Nos. 995 and 997, inclusive, together.
The 2014-2020 LEADER programme is due to finish at the end of this year as far as new project commitments are concerned. Due to delays in agreeing the post-2020 EU Budget, the next EU LEADER programme will not commence until 2022 at the earliest.
The Programme for Government includes a commitment to prioritise a State-led programme to bridge the gap between the current LEADER programme and the next EU programme. The objective of the Transitional Programme is to allow locally-led rural development projects to continue to be delivered using the LEADER model until the new EU programme commences.
The duration of the transitional period at EU level has not yet been agreed. We are therefore planning for Ireland’s Transitional Programme to run for an initial period of 12 months, but with the scope to extend this if necessary, to align with the outcome of the discussions at EU level between the Commission and the Parliament.
An extra €4 million has been provided for LEADER in Budget 2021, to bring the total allocation for next year to €44 million. I can confirm that this allocation will be used to fund a combination of existing projects as they come to completion, as well as for new projects to be approved under the Transitional Programme. The funding will also support the administration costs of Local Action Groups and their Implementing Partners who deliver the programme locally, in closing out the existing programme and delivering the Transitional Programme.
It is important to recognise that LEADER is a multi-annual programme and that payments in respect of projects which are approved in any given year are generally not drawn down until subsequent years as the projects are completed. Therefore, costs related to projects under the Transitional Programme are likely to be met from the provision in my Department’s Vote in 2022 and 2023, as well as in 2021.
The details of the Transitional Programme are currently being finalised and I hope to be in a position shortly to announce the full details of project and administration allocations under the Programme.