Country Idealist Profiles

Ireland – Local Development

Posted in Ireland, Ireland - Local Administration by blopote on August 14, 2008

Since 1991, there have been several initiatives developed in Ireland to stimulate and promote economic and social development at local level, arising initially from the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and subsequently as part of EU structural fund programmes.   They include:

  • Partnership companies – established in urban and rural areas to accelerate local economic and social development and thereby to increase employment and tackle exclusion and marginalisation resulting from long term unemployment, poor educational attainment, poverty and demographic dependency. In all, there are thirty-eight area based partnership and thirty community based partnership companies in operation around the country.  In nine counties the same board implements LEADER and partnership objectives. Typically, a board has eighteen members drawn in equal proportions from the statutory agencies, the social partners and the community sector.
  • LEADER Groups – LEADER, is an acronym of the French title Liaison Entre Actions de Dévelopement de l’Économie Rurale, which translates as ‘cooperating for the development of the rural economy’. LEADER is an EU rural development programme which seeks to achieve its objectives by supporting and promoting innovative projects and processes. In Ireland these groups were set up in the early 90s to promote rural development encompassing the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises, investment in training, rural tourism and marketing and processing of local produce. There are thirty-six approved LEADER groups with areas varying considerably – part of a county, whole counties and trans-county areas. Board membership varies from five or six to over twenty but it is typically fourteen, with nominees from the community sector, the private sector and State agencies.
  • County Enterprise Boards dating from 1993, provide a range of enterprise support services at local level to new and existing businesses, community groups, individual entrepreneurs etc. There are thirty-five boards, all operating within county/city boundaries. Typically, each board has fourteen members drawn from State agencies, social partners, local government and the community sector.
  • County Childcare Committees (CCCs)  were assigned by the National Childcare Strategy (2000) as the key local component in the development of a co-ordinated approach to quality childcare. 33 CCCs were set up around the country and each has a legal status.  Each committee has on average 22 members who are representive of the key stakeholders in each county.  The main focus of the CCCs is to advance the provision of quality childcare facilities and services within the designated local area.

All these initiatives reflect a strong spirit of partnership. A key to their success is that they have been highly innovative in their working methods and in preparing flexible, targeted and integrated responses to local needs. Much of local development is structural funds led and the reality is that the various categories of structural funding have required separate and discrete funding and reporting arrangements.

The local development organisations share a common approach in achieving their objectives. The key elements of this approach are:

  • an area-based approach to tackling local problems tailored to the particular needs and resources of the area;
  • a multi-sectoral approach to addressing problems, which involves participants from the public, private and voluntary sectors;
  • new patterns of involvement by national and local public authorities, supported by flexible and innovative staffing arrangements;
  • a strategic approach to developing local potential, with a strong emphasis on integrated planning and implementation;
  • providing local structures with the necessary resources and authority to achieve their strategic objectives;
  • co-ordination of national policies to ensure coherence of policy-making and commitment to policy change and subsidiarity; and
  • effective linkages between local and central structures to ensure that difficulties identified at local level shape central policy making.

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