“Many of our communities and disadvantaged groups are still reeling from the impact of disproportionate cuts over the past decade.” – Jim Finn
Irish Local Development Network
Jim Finn from Ballinahow, Co. Tipperary, has been appointed chairperson of the Irish Local Development Network, the representative body for the country’s 49 Local Development Companies.
In a voluntary capacity, Jim already serves as chairperson of North Tipperary Development Company and broadcasts extensively on community and rural affairs for Tipp FM. He takes over from Marie Price Bolger who led the network from 2015.
The country’s Local Development Companies deliver social and community supports services such as LEADER, Local Employment Services, the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme, Tús, the Rural Social Scheme, social enterprise supports and a range of other community and rural development programmes.
On becoming chair, Jim said, “there have been many positive, recent policy developments such as the publication of a national Social Enterprise Policy and the new 5-year Strategy for the Community and Voluntary Sector. But, many of our communities and disadvantaged groups are still reeling from the impact of disproportionate cuts over the past decade.”
His key priorities for the sector include securing:
– An increase in social inclusion funding,
– Protection and extension of community-based employment services,
– Adequate resourcing and simplified design of rural funds, eg LEADER.
He said the “bottom-up community engagement approach of Local Development Companies” was particularly suited to the climate action challenge.
He called for “consistent core-funding” for Local Development Companies who are “the primary delivery agent of much of the state’s response to unemployment and social exclusion”.
“I am also particularly conscious that our companies are governed by volunteer-led boards and I look forward to the full implementation of the ‘Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities’ strategy with appropriate supports for the voluntary, bottom-up approach that is so vital for our communities.”
Regarding the ILDNs value, Jim said it was the largest network of companies in the State for community development and anti-poverty work: “We have over 2,100 employees and 9,500 Tús & RSS workers on the ground supporting over 15,000 community groups and 173,000 individuals annually through €300+ million of state-funded programmes.”
Passionate predecessor, Marie Price-Bolger, made her mark
He paid tribute to his predecessor Marie Price-Bolger: “She led the network through a period of very significant funding and policy challenges. She served the organisation and the sector with great dedication, energy and fairness.”
Marie made a speech last year calling on the Government to look beyond private sector suppliers, stressing that it is volunteers who make communities work. She said, “Our sector consistently provides services on behalf of government departments in an efficient, effective and value for money model that cannot be matched by any private-sector programme.”
Directly addressing Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring, who was in attendance, Price-Bolger asked him to bring to cabinet concerns about the privatisation of community work.*