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LEADER in Ireland

Minister Eamon O Ciuv recently relaunched the LEADER programme in Ireland. Announcing the €425m package of support he emphasised that “Despite the difficulties facing us, the investment that the Programme will provide presents us with an opportunity to change rural communities in Ireland for the better.“  This sentiment would be echoed by the staff and voluntary boards of the 36 LEADER companies throughout the country who have provided support to tens of thousands of individuals and community groups over the years. With each company allocated approximately €10m to distribute in grants over the coming five years, there is no doubt that they have a key role to play in building small enterprise and services in rural areas.

LEADER has been operating in Ireland since 1991 and is part funded from the EU. It has grown from a pilot initiative with 12 companies and a national annual budget of approximately €10m per year to one which is a core element of the Rural Development Programme with 36 local action groups (or LAGs) administering over €80Million per year across the whole of rural Ireland.


LEADER - ‘Liason Entre Actions pour le Development d’lEconomie Rurale’ is a Rural Development Programme part-funded by the European Union. LEADER was launched in 1991 by the then Commissioner for Agriculture, Ray MacSharry. LEADER funding is administered by local companies also known as Local Action Groups (LAGs) who distribute grants and other supports to projects within their areas. The most recent phase of the programme within the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development promotes the LEADER method (or Axes 4) as an approach by which supports to Agriculture and rural communities can be delivered.

The approach and success of LEADER in Ireland has been presented internationally as a model of good practice and the Irish LAGs are at the forefront of an EU-wide LEADER movement constituting over 2000 groups in 27 member states.  Over the past two years LEADER in Ireland has undergone a process of restructuring, (see cohesion box). This is now complete. New companies have been set up, staff assigned and funding has been allocated by the Department of Community Rural and Gaelteacht affairs. All of the rural enterprise and quality of life objectives under the rural development programme will be delivered by LEADER.

Cohesion Process.

Funding to local development in rural areas is provided through a number of organisations and initiatives both national and co-finanaced by the EU. The LEADER programme is one of these as is the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme (LDSIP) and the Rural Social Scheme (RSS). In many areas these programmes were managed locally by separate organisations. In 2006 an initiative was launched to encourage the merging or cohesion, of these organisations and the establishment of a single entity to deliver both LEADER and social inclusion funding. This process was completed early in 2009 with the establishment of 36 cohesed “LEADER-Partnerships”.

So what exactly is LEADER and how does it impact on people living in Rural communities across Ireland?

First of all LEADER companies, or Local Action Groups, are non for profit companies established to promote the development of their own specific rural areas. These areas coincide in many cases, but not always, with county boundaries. The board of the company is drawn equally from community, farming, and rural enterprise organisations as well as state agencies and local politicians. The focus of the work of LEADER is to support small rural business and to strengthen facilities and services for rural communities.

With funds in the region of €1-2 million to distribute per year through grants, each LEADER company has very clear procedures in place to ensure this happens both efficiently and to the best effect.  Applications are received, go to an evaluation committee, recommendations are made to the Board and on approval by the board, applications for funding are vetted by Departmental inspectors before a contract is signed with the applicant. Once this contract is signed the applicant can carry out the work and will be paid on its completion.

The procedure described is straightforward and should be reasonably efficient however there is a considerable amount of work involved in encouraging people with good project ideas to come forward, in helping them put a structure on their idea and in filling out the best application possible. Many successful entrepreneurs who have worked with LEADER over the years would say that such support and encouragement was often more important to them then the grant.  Once that grant has been secured project promoters often need help in setting the project established and indeed in developing it to its full potential once it has gotten off the ground.

Most LEADER companies have a small contingent of staff, a manager, administrator and 2 or 3 project officers. They work closely with colleagues involved in other schemes aimed at improving life in rural areas, schemes such as the rural social scheme, rural transport and social inclusion work.  Every part of Rural Ireland has a LEADER company to which people can make applications for support. While LEADER may not always be in a position to assist with a particular project they will direct applicants to agencies who can help them or will advise on how a project could be improved or developed.

Leader companies have funded the development of new walking routes under the regulations Leader can fund up to 75% of the cost of the project and will allow voluntary labour to make up a portion of the other 25%. This is subject to your application. Please consult with your local Leader company if you wish to develop a walking route


Contact Details for LEADER Companies in Ireland

Company Address Phone Web/Email
Avondhu/Blackwater Integrated Local Development Body The Showgrounds, Fermoy, Co Cork 025 33411 http://www.avondhublackwater.com/


Ballyhoura Partnership Main Street, Kilfinane, Co Limerick 063 91300 http://ballyhoura.wordpress.com/


Cavan-Monaghan LEADER RDP Office: Agricultural College, Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan 049 4338477 http://www.cmleader.ie/


Carlow County Development Partnership Main Street, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow 059 9720733 http://www.carlowdevelopment.ie/


Comhar na nOileán Inis Oírr, Oileáin Árann, Cuan na Gaillimhe 099 75096 http://www.oileain.ie/


Cill Dara Ar Aghaidh Teoranta Jigginstown Commercial Centre, Naas, Co Kildare 045 861973 justin@kelt.ie
Clare Local Development Company Rural Resource Development, Shannon Business Centre, Town Centre, Shannon, Co Clare 061 361144 http://www.cldc.ie/


County Wicklow Partnership Saville House, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow 0404 46977 http://www.wicklowleader.ie/


Donegal Local Development Company 1 Millennium Court, Pearse Road, Letterkenny, Co Donegal 074 9127056 http://www.dldc.org/


Fingal LEADER Partnership Company Limited Unit 14, BEAT Centre, Stephenstown Industrial Estate, Balbriggan, Fingal, Co Dublin 01 8020484 http://www.fingalleaderpartnership.ie/


Forum Connemara Ltd Letterfrack, Connemara, Co Galway 095 41116 http://www.forumconnemara.ie/


Galway Rural Development Company Ltd Mellows Campus, Athenry, Co Galway 091 844335 http://www.grd.ie/


Inishowen Development Partnership 2 Victoria Villas, St Marys Road, Buncrana, Inishowen, Co Donegal 074 9362218 http://www.inishowen.ie/


IRD Duhallow Ltd James O’Keeffe Institute, New Market, Cork 029 60633 http://www.irdduhallow.com


Kilkenny LEADER Partnership 42 Parliament Street, Kilkenny 056 7752111 http://www.cklp.ie/


Laois Partnership Company Ltd Peppers Court, Portlaoise, Co Laois 057 8661900 http://laoispartnership.ie/


Leitrim Integrated Development Company Church Street, Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim 071 9641740 http://www.ldco.ie/


Longford Community Resources Longford Community Enterprise Centre, Templemichael, Ballinalee Road, Longford 043 3345555 http://www.lcrl.ie/


Louth LEADER Partnership c/o Dundalk Employment Partnership, Court Park Street, Dundalk , Co Louth 042 9330288 http://www.louthleader.com/


Meath Partnership Company Ltd Tom Blake House, Bective Street, Kells, Co Meath 046 9280790 http://www.meathpartnership.ie/


Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teoranta MFG Teo an Mhainstir An Daingean, Co Chiarrai 066 9152280 http://www.mfg.ie/


Mayo North East LEADER Partnership Company Teo Main Street, Foxford, Co Mayo 094 9256745 http://www.mayonortheast.com/


North & East Kerry LEADER Partnership Teoranta 1st Floor, 39 Main Street, Castleisland, Co Kerry 066 7143788 http://www.nekd.ie/


North Tipperary LEADER Partnership Company New Line, Roscrea, Co Tipperary 0505 23379 http://www.ntlp.ie/


Offaly Local Development Company Millennium House, Main Street, Tullamore, Co Offaly 057 9352467 http://www.offalyldc.ie/


Roscommon Integrated Development Company Roscommon West Business Park, Circular Road, Roscommon 071 9646186 http://www.ridc.ie/


Sligo LEADER Partnership Company Sligo Development Centre, Cleveragh Road, Sligo 071 9141138 http://www.sligoleader.com/


South East Cork Area Development Partnership Ltd Midleton Community Enterprise Centre, Knockgriffin, Midleton, Co Cork 021 4613432 http://www.secad.ie/


South Kerry Development Partnership The Old Barracks, Bridge Street, Cahersiveen, Co Kerry 066 9472724 http://www.southkerry.ie/


South Tipperary Development Company The Bridewell, St Michaels Street, Tipperary Town 062 33360 tlg@iol.ie
South West Mayo Development Company Carey Walsh Building, Georges Street, Newport, Co Mayo 098 41950 http://www.southmayo.com/


Waterford Leader Partnership Ltd John Barry House, Lismore Business Park, Lismore, Co. Waterford 058 54646 http://www.wlp.ie/


West Cork Development Partnership West Cork Technology Park, Clonakilty, Co.Cork 023 8834035 http://www.wcdp.ie/


West Limerick Resources Ltd. St. Mary’s Road, Newcastle West, Co. Limerick 069 62222 http://www.wlr.ie/


Westmeath Community Development Westmeath Community Development, Zone C - Mullingar Business Park, Clonmore, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath 04493 48571 http://www.westcd.ie/


Wexford Local Development 9 Mallin Street, Cornmarket, Wexford 053 9146453 bobrien@wexfordareapartnership.ie