LEADER 2014-2020


Introduction to the Programme

LEADER is a Community Led Local Development (CLLD) approach that involves the participation of rural communities in developing responses to the key economic, environmental and social challenges identified in their areas.

Due to delays at EU level in agreeing the new CAP regulations and the wider EU budget for the period 2021-2027, there is a gap between the current 2014-2020 LEADER programme and the next EU LEADER programme. The next EU LEADER programme will not now begin until at least January 2023.  To bridge this time gap, an amendment has been submitted by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to the European Commission to extend the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme, under which LEADER is funded, out to the end of 2022.

Aim of the Transitional Programme

The aim of the Transitional LEADER Programme is to allow locally-led rural development projects to continue to be delivered using the current LEADER model until the new EU programme commences in 2023.

The Transitional Programme provides a particular opportunity for LAGs and Implementing Partners to:

a) Work closely with communities, and particularly those who have not previously benefited from LEADER funding, to build their capacity in preparation for the next programming period and ensure that weaker communities are not left behind.

b) Promote projects which support communities in a post-COVID-19 environment.

c) Support job creation, entrepreneurship, enterprise development and innovation in a post-COVID-19 and/or post-Brexit environment.

d) Explore and develop projects for funding in thematic areas which are likely to feature strongly in the next EU-funded programme. In this regard, projects which address the climate agenda, digital transformation and projects that utilise the Smart Village1 approach to local area development should be encouraged. (Smart Villages are rural areas and communities, which build on, and enhance their existing strengths and assets through creative thinking and by embracing innovation to create desirable places for rural people to live and work.)

The Transitional LEADER Programme seeks to address the challenges facing rural Ireland in the coming period and to complement the Rural Development Policy which will place an emphasis on job creation, remote working, and maximising the potential of broadband in rural communities.  Key issues to be addressed include:

  1. Supports to rural businesses seeking to reach new markets, expand, innovate and/or diversify in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and/or Brexit, with a particular emphasis on providing support to businesses in the food sector.
  2. Community based projects that seek to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Supports and capacity building for communities that have not previously received assistance under LEADER or other rural programmes, using the Transitional Programme for the LAGs and Implementing Partners to engage directly with new applicants to develop projects and enhance collaboration within communities.
  4. Support for new and innovative projects in the areas of climate change, environmental protection and the green economy.
  5. Maximising the potential of broadband and the digital economy in communities, including through skills development and building awareness and usage of available remote working facilities.
  6. Projects that develop the concept of the Smart Village initiative or Rural Economic Development Zones (REDZs) which could serve as proof-of-concept for more substantial proposals in the context of the next EU-funded LEADER Programme.

The Rural Development (LEADER) Programme outlines three themes that have been identified, through consultation and research, as representing the overarching needs of rural Ireland. These themes respond to key challenges facing rural Ireland, with regard to:

  • Economic recovery
  • Employment creation
  • Tackling social exclusion
  • Reducing the impact of global warming and resource depletion.

Each theme is defined further through a number of sub-themes which reflect the key areas considered to require greatest support and have the greatest potential to promote the sustainable development of rural communities.  Funding for the period 2021 – 2022 will focus on the following themes and sub thematic areas:

Theme 1:  Economic Development, Enterprise Development and Job Creation

The focus of theme one relates to the challenge of driving continued local economic development, including the diversification of the rural economy, to create employment opportunities for the local community, including those from disadvantaged groups.

  • Sub Theme 1.1: Rural Tourism
  • Sub Theme 1.2: Enterprise Development
  • Sub Theme 1.3: Rural Towns
  • Sub Theme 1.4: Broadband

Theme 2: Social Inclusion

The focus of theme two is not only from an economic development perspective but also in relation to fostering social inclusion.  As a result of inadequate income and resources, people may be excluded and marginalised from participating in activities which are considered the norm for other people in society.  In rural areas, low population density, high levels of out-migration and distance from urban centres, results in fewer employment options and lower levels of service provision than in urban areas.  In rural areas, people’s experience of exclusion is often compounded by physical isolation.

  • Sub Theme 2.1: Provision of Basic Services Targeted at Hard to Reach Communities
  • Sub Theme 2.2: Rural Youth (defined as people aged 15 to 35 years)

Theme 3: Rural Environment

Theme three focuses on maximising the potential of the environment to contribute to the sustainable development of rural communities.  This is premised on utilising the landscape within a local area, its features and natural resources, while simultaneously creating a greater environmental awareness and improving environmental protection.

  • Sub Theme 3.1: Protection and Sustainable use of Water Resources
  • Sub Theme 3.2: Protection and Improvement of Local Biodiversity
  • Sub Theme 3.3: Development of Renewable Energy

All potential funding applications must fall within one of the sub-theme areas of the programme as outlined above.  Eligible projects can apply for assistance under the following:

  • Capital (including equipment)
  • Marketing
  • Training
  • Analysis & Development (feasibility studies, development plans etc.)
  • Co-Operation

Rates of Aid are as follows:

Capital / Equipment

Private Promoter:                                      75%                            Maximum €200,000

Community Promoter:                             75%*                         Maximum €200,000*

* Increased to €500,000 where no economic activity is carried out

(For Community Projects that do not involve Economic Activity it is likely that an upper ceiling of €500,000 will apply)


Private / Community Promoter                         100%

Analysis & Development

Private Promoter:                                      75%                            Maximum €30,000

Community Promoter:                             90%                            Maximum €30,000

Community Promoters – Basic Services Sub Theme up to 90%

Funding Process:

The programme will be rolled out on both a Targeted Calls for Proposals and Rolling Calls basis:

  • Targeted Calls will be advertised when the call opens and expressions of interest invited from potential applicants. Once the Expression of Interest has been assessed and deemed eligible for support a promoter will then be invited to submit a full application for support.  NB:  Only projects that have submitted an eligible Expression of Interest will be invited to submit a full application for funding.
  • Rolling Calls will be on an on-going basis. Expressions of Interest must be submitted and when the EOI has been assessed and deemed eligible for support a promoter will then be invited to submit a full application.

Please click on the links below for the relevant EOI form and Programme Information:

Expression of Interest Form

Appendix 4 Strategy Actions

Evaluation Scoring Record