Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has said the Government must explain why they have been drawing down so little of the EU finding that Ireland is entitled to.
The Ireland South MEP, who sits on the EU Culture and Education Committee, made the call as she addressed the European Parliament on youth unemployment.
“I am as baffled as I am appalled by the Irish Government’s attitude to EU funding,” she said.
“You would think that every public service in Ireland was fully funded, that we didn’t have crises in transport and health and housing given their refusal to draw down funds the Irish people are entitled to.
“Just a few months ago we learned that a mere 0.3% of the 2014-2020 LEADER programme had been spent, meaning hundreds of millions that should be going to rural Irish communities will now likely be sent back to Brussels, and now we discover that we have the second lowest level of drawing down funding when it comes to the Youth Employment Initiative.
“Only Romania draws down less than we do. Unbelievably, a mere 6% of EU funding allocated to Ireland has been used. That’s €8 million of a possible €136 million.
“Not only that, but this funding has been available for four years. That 6% represents four years of investment in our young people.
“Meanwhile , the rates of young people in Ireland not in employment, education or training stands at almost 20%, double the rate during the pre-recession period.
“This is not a problem that will be dented, let alone solved, by €8million. The Government seems content to continue with its long standing policy of reducing youth unemployment in Ireland by forcing our best and brightest out across the world.
“And if they’re not forcing them out of the country they’re forcing them out of education by refusing to tackle issues such as extortionate rents, apprenticeship fees and costs of living.
“This government’s refusal to draw down available funds has been happening for so long across so many different sectors that it simply cannot be a coincidence. This is either deliberate madness or gross incompetence.
“Fine Gael and their Fianna Fail lackeys are knowingly depriving rural Ireland, Irish young people and God only knows what other sectors of funds they are entitled to and it’s long past time they explained why.”