In line with the ‘bottom-up’ approach to rural development under the LEADER elements of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013, there are 35 Local Action Groups (LAGs) contracted, on my Department’s behalf , to deliver the Programme throughout the country. These groups are the principal decision-makers in relation to the allocation of project funding. Such decisions are made in the context of the local development strategy of the individual groups and in line with the Programme’s Operating Rules and EU regulations. My Department is charged with ensuring that all decisions made at local level are compliant with both the National and EU regulatory frameworks and that there is a robust system in place to facilitate this. This includes a system of control checks as well as a subsequent appeals system on foot of such controls.
The project referred to in the question was subject to such control checks and was deemed ineligible. The initial decision was subject to the review and appeals process in place in my Department and the decision was upheld at each stage of this process. The matter also involved a review by the office of the Ombudsman. Following receipt of the Ombudsman’s decision, and legal advice, further investigations have been undertaken. The results of these investigations will be made available once complete.