– Announcement today by Ministers Humphreys and McConalogue
– Overall LEADER allocation to increase by €50m following EU support
– Funding will support rural communities and private enterprises in Covid-19 recovery
– Funding welcomed by ILDN

€50m is expected to come from the EU to boost funds to a total of €70m for the LEADER programme for the period 2021-2022.

The update, welcomed by both the Irish Local Development Network and Irish Rural Link, was announced today by Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue.

Ministers Humphreys and McConalogue said the funding will support rural communities and private enterprises in the recovery from the pandemic. The funding is significant. For example, in a case study we highlighted only last month, LEADER funding of €17,475 (to date) has helped a project in Co. Louth to transform children’s lives (click photo for story).

• A rehearsal at Coláiste Chu Chulainn, Dundalk. Photo by Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland.

In a press statement, the Government said it had today begun the process of submitting an amendment to the European Commission to extend the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme, under which LEADER is funded, to the end of 2022.

As part of the process, the LEADER Programme will be allocated a total of €70m for 2021-2022, adding an extra €50m to the initial funding of €20m announced by Minister Humphreys in December.

Minister Humphreys said, “This will give local communities and enterprises an opportunity to respond to the emerging challenges for their areas and will support measures that provide employment and job creation throughout rural Ireland.”

“The funding we are announcing today will ensure that more vital locally-led projects in areas like climate change, digital transformation, remote working and enterprise development can be progressed in rural communities throughout the country.”

LEADER is an important element of Ireland’s EU co-funded Rural Development Programme, which forms part of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).

Minister McConalogue said, “Through the LEADER programme, over the next two years a total of €70 million, of which more than €50 million is expected to come from the EU, will be directly invested into rural areas to help address specific needs and help to realise opportunities for rural Ireland as we recover from the impact of COVID-19.”

In the coming weeks, the Department of Rural and Community Development will provide the breakdown of the increased allocation of €70m to each of 29 Local Action Groups who deliver the LEADER Programme.


• Jim Finn, chairperson of the ILDN.

Welcoming the announcement, Jim Finn, the chairperson of the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) said, “As the deliverers of LEADER across the country, we are greatly encouraged by today’s announcement.”

He said his organisation had recently been calling for the Government to use funding available from the EU for rural development, for the purposes of LEADER.

• Éamonn O’Reilly.

ILDN rural development spokesperson Éamonn O’Reilly said, “The LEADER Programme offers the ideal vehicle for the delivery of development funding to rural areas in the most effective manner. The allocation of this increased funding will deliver critical stimulus to rural areas to help drive the post Covid recovery.”

He said the €70m will ensure that vital projects in the areas of climate change, digital transformation, remote working and enterprise development can be progressed in rural communities throughout the country “to meet the expectations of the EU in terms of the requirements of its recovery funding criteria.”


• Seamus Boland. Source: EU.

In his statement, the CEO of Irish Rural Link (IRL), Seamus Boland, said, “This funding will ensure projects that contribute to the sustainable development of rural communities will be able to continue and there will be no gaps in funding until the new CAP is announced which may not be in place until 2023”.

The statement added that IRL was involved in a lead role in supporting the 2014-2020 LEADER programme, highlighting  projects funded through LEADER and working with the Local Development Companies and Local Action Groups to ensure effective delivery and it will continue to be involved in the extension of the programme.


LEADER is a rural development programme co-funded by the EU which operates a locally-led, bottom-up, approach to meeting the needs of local communities and businesses. The programme supports private enterprises and community groups in rural areas. LEADER forms part of Ireland’s multi-annual Rural Development Programme which is co-financed by the EU and is part of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).

The LEADER programme is delivered by 29 Local Action Groups (LAGs) in 28 sub-regional areas. These groups are partnerships of public and private entities from a defined geographical area. LAGs are responsible for identifying and helping to develop local projects which support the themes of Economic Development (including enterprise development and job creation), Social Inclusion and Rural Environment.