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Fine Gael minister allocates one eighth of a national money pot to his own constituency

Michael Ring’s home county of Mayo received €216,000 in the recent allocation of the outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme.

File Photo RURAL AFFAIRS MINISTER Michael Ring has hit back at Fianna Fáil’s Eamon O’Cuiv over allegations he left money which could have been spent on rural areas behind. O’Cuiv criticised Ring for failing to spend the allocated budget of €163 m Michael Ring Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

THE CONSTITUENCY OF Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring got almost one eighth of the national pot of money from a recreation scheme funded by his Department.

Mayo received €216,000, over €26,000 more than the next highest allocation given to a county under the scheme according to departmental records.

Altogether, €1.82 million was given out in the first round of this year’s outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme – nearly 12% of which ended up going to Co Mayo.

The Department defended the funding allocations saying that when populations were calculated, some other counties had actually done better than Mayo on a per capita basis.

There were 128 local projects funded around the country, with eleven of those selected in Co Mayo.

Ten projects in Minister Ring’s constituency got €20,000 each in funding, the maximum award under this round of the scheme while one got €16,000.

Most of the funding was for “repair and maintenance” with projects benefiting including the Great Western Greenway between Westport and Achill and the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail.

Others to benefit from the maximum grant were the Erris Head Loop Walk and the Foxford Way.

Applications

Some counties got hardly any funding with three receiving nothing at all: Donegal, Kildare, and Louth, although it is not clear how many applications were made from each of them.

Dublin was not eligible for “this rural scheme”, according to the Department though parts of Fingal are classified as rural for other funding.

A spokesman for the Minister said a total of 267 applications had been made for funding and that every one of the 128 eligible applications had been funded.

“Unsuccessful applications were declined on the basis that they did not meet the criteria for funding. Reasons included, failure to provide evidence of planning permission or evidence of matched funding,” he said.

The spokesman queried calculations based on population and said that when per capita figures were worked out, Sligo, Monaghan and Westmeath had actually done better than Mayo.

Based on national population, Mayo received 11.8% of the fund despite the fact that its population is less than 3% of the total.

The spokesman said: “[That] calculation of the population includes Dublin which is not a recipient in this rural scheme. When Dublin’s population is excluded from this calculation, which it should be, the proportion of the population represented by Mayo and other counties increases.”

Funding

With Dublin excluded from the figure, Mayo still makes up less than 4% of the national population but its share of the fund of course stays unchanged at just below 12%.

Announcing the grants, Minister Michael Ring said the projects would “enhance existing recreational facilities for the benefit of the communities who use them every day, and also for the many tourists who enjoy visiting our rural areas”.

Projects funded including walking trail upgrades, route signage improvements, development of promotional materials, and provision of bike stands.

This is not the first time the constituency of Minister Ring has done well in funding decisions from his Department of Rural and Community Development.

Last year, from a €21 million fund under the town and village scheme, Mayo got the single largest funding boost of €1.358 million (just over 6% of the total fund).

Ring’s home county also did well in previous rounds of the outdoor recreation scheme. Last year, from a final pot of €11.4 million Mayo got just under 10% of the total.

The Minister had attracted criticism when appointed minister for appearing to suggest he would do his best to bring funding to his home county.

He told a homecoming celebration at the time: “I will do the best that I can as a Minister for this county, but particularly for this country. I will continue to bring all the money that I have brought into Ballina, and to Ballycastle, and to Killala, and every part of the county that I have an opportunity.”

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About the author:

Ken Foxe  / Journalist lecturer and freelance reporter

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