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 What is LEADER?
 Since its launch in 1991, LEADER has provided rural communities, across the EU, with the resources to enable local partners to actively engage and direct the local development of their area, through a community-led local development (CLLD).
LEADER is a French acronym (Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l’Économie Rurale), which roughly translates as ‘Liaison among Actors in Rural Economic Development.’
Decisions on LEADER funding are made at a local level by a Local Action Group (LAG), through the framework of a Local Development Strategy (LDS). A LAG is made up of people from the local community as well as from the local public and private sector. The LDS is a plan that is developed by rural communities to support sustainable development of their sub-regional area.
LEADER 2014-2020 
The Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is the programme manager  for LEADER. Pobal supports  the Department in elements of the programme including managing the LDS selection process, financial verification checks and the roll out of the ICT system.
The LEADER programme for 2014-2020 has identified a number of strategic objectives and priorities for EU rural development.   In Ireland, the overall LEADER budget is €250m (7% of the RDP). 
In the Irish context, LEADER is included under priority 6 of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (RDP): "promoting social inclusion, poverty reduction and economic development in rural areas."
To facilitate a more effective targeting of resources, the requirements of the RDP were identified through consultation and research.  The RDP outlines a series of themes that were identified as overarching needs in rural Ireland.
LEADER has three RDP and nine sub-themes:
Theme 1: Economic Development, Enterprise Development and Job Creation.
Sub-themes: Rural Tourism, Enterprise Development, Rural Town and Broadband.
Theme 2: Social Inclusion
Sub-themes: Basic services targeted at hard to reach communities and Rural Youth.
Theme 3: Rural Environment
Sub-themes: Protection and sustainable use of water resources, Protection and improvement of local bio-diversity and Development of renewable energy.
Further information on LEADER 2014-2020 as well as previous programming periods, is available on the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government website:  Rural Development Programme (LEADER) 2014-2020
How to apply for LEADER funding
Currently, there are 28 LAGs who have contracts in place with the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The remaining areas will have contracts issued in due course.
For further information on LEADER funding in your local area, including how to apply, please contact the relevant Local Action Group (LAG) or the associated Implementing Partner (IP) in your area.
The new LEADER ICT system will be rolled out on a phased basis. Phase 1, which facilitates the submission of a monthly return (administration and animation expenditure) went live at the beginning of August.
Information regarding the next phase which relates to full project information and claims will be available in due course.