Two community-led projects in North East Galway funded by the LEADER Programme, initiated and overseen by the Caltra Community Centre Development Committee Association and the Mountbellew Heritage and Tourism Network, have been invited by Ireland’s National Rural Network to participate in a number of initiatives being held this week to celebrate the success of the LEADER Programme in Ireland over the past 30 years, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM), and the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD). Through its ‘bottom up’, locally-led, framework, the multi-annual LEADER Programme has supported the delivery of local development actions which address the overarching needs of rural communities throughout Ireland in an innovative, integrated and inclusive manner since 1991.
On Wednesday, November 10th, Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, T.D., will launch a booklet produced by the National Rural Network team in the Rural Studies Centre at NUI Galway, Dr Shane Conway and Dr Maura Farrell. This booklet showcases 72 project examples located throughout the country funded under each of the three core themes of the €250 million LEADER Programme 2014-2020 (Economic, Social and Environment) to help future applicants see what is possible through LEADER’s community-led approach to rural development. Recent development work carried out by Caltra Community Centre as well as Mountbellew Heritage and Tourism Network’s restoration work on a 18th century walled garden in the community are both featured in this publication.
This booklet will also be launched at a separate event being run by the National Rural Network in Mountbellew, Co. Galway with representatives from Mountbellew Heritage and Tourism Network and Galway Rural Development on November 11th. Dr Maura Farrell, Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Geography at NUI Galway working on the National Rural Network Project explains that ‘LEADER support, co-funded by the European Union, provides rural communities such as Mountbellew with the necessary resources and support to enable them to actively engage and direct the local development of their own area. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the LEADER Programme has remained fully operational with Local Development Companies, such as Galway Rural Development, working tirelessly to continue to deliver much needed support and assistance to their communities’.
On Saturday morning, November 13th, Mary Clarke, Treasurer of Caltra Community Centre Development Committee Association, has been invited by RTE and the National Rural Network to speak about the impact and success of LEADER funding in helping to bring about social capital, inclusion and collegiality in the local community on RTE Radio 1’s CountryWide show, that will be aired from 8.10am until 9.00am.
Finally, next Monday, the 15th of November, Mary Clarke from Caltra has again been selected to speak about Caltra Community Centre Development Committee Association’s experience availing of funding under the LEADER Programme over the past 10 years to enhance the development of their community’s facilities at an online national conference celebrating 30 years of LEADER in Ireland being held by the National Rural Network and the Department of Rural and Community Development.
This event will reflect on past and current programmes, while also debating rural policy and practice via the next LEADER Programme. Professor Mark Shucksmith OBE, world-renowned expert in rural development from Newcastle University, will deliver the keynote address at this conference, that also includes speakers from the European Commission (DG AGRI) overseeing the LEADER Programme, as well representatives the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD). Kevin McCarthy, Secretary-General of the Department of Rural and Community Development will close the event. The registration link for this free online conference can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/30-years-of-leader-learning-from-the-past-looking-to-the-future-registration-166634071995
Speaking about Caltra and Mountbellew’s participation in these celebratory initiatives, Dr Shane Conway, Researcher in the Rural Studies Centre at NUI Galway working on the National Rural Network project, highlights that ‘both communities have benefited enormously from the LEADER Programme; not only through capital invested, but more specifically through the enhancement and accumulation of social capital in these rural areas. The LEADER Programme’s focus on innovative community-led local development is now more important than ever as Irish villages such as Caltra, and rural towns such as Mountbellew, adapt, rebuild, and reenergise as part of their COVID-19 recovery response’.