What is LEADER?

Since its inception in 1991, LEADER has provided grants to rural Ireland to direct economic and social development through community-led local development. The Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) is responsible for administering the LEADER Programme. Funded through Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan (CSP) 2023-2027, the current LEADER Programme budget provides €180 million in financial grant aid.

LEADER Programme 2023-2027 grant support is available in rural areas under the following indicative themes:

  • Economic Development and Job Creation
  • Rural Infrastructure and Social Inclusion
  • Sustainable Development of Rural Environment and Climate Change Mitigation

For more information on the wider CSP see the Summary of Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan 2023 – 2027 document.

LEADER Concept:

The LEADER Programme is based on the ‘bottom-up’ approach to rural development which empowers local communities to actively participate in decisions affecting their area.

7 Key Principles of LEADER:

The LEADER approach to rural development is based on 7 key principles which guide the practice of community-led local development. The principles complement each other and should positively interact for successful LEADER Programme implementation. They are deeply connected and work together to safeguard and build a brighter future for rural communities.

  1. Bottom-up approach
  2. Cooperation
  3. Innovative elements in the local context
  4. Local strategies
  5. Networking
  6. Public-private partnerships
  7. Subregional areas

For more information, you can view a report based on the outputs of the EU CAP Network CAP Implementation Contact Point’s 2022 Thematic Group on Making the seven LEADER principles work in practice for all LAGs under the CAP Strategic Plans.

LEADER 2023-2027 Indicative Themes and Sub-Themes:

The LEADER Programme 2023-2027 will incorporate three themes that reflect the overarching needs of rural Ireland. Each theme contains a number of sub-themes. They are considered the key areas in need of support with the greatest potential to promote the sustainable development of rural Ireland.

Theme 1:

Economic Development and Job Creation

Sub-themes include: 

  • The Green Economy 
  • Agricultural Diversification 
  • Rural Tourism & Recreation 
  • Enterprise Development 
  • Rural Food Production 
  • Social, Community & Cooperative Enterprises

Theme 2:

Rural Infrastructure and Social Inclusion

Sub-themes include: 

  • Rural Infrastructure 
  • Accessible Services 
  • Optimising Digital Connectivity 
  • Rural Youth

Theme 3:

Sustainable Development of Rural Environment and Climate Change Mitigation

Sub-themes include: 

  • Sustainable Development of Rural Environment 
  • Climate Change Capacity Building 
  • Climate Change Mitigation and Adaption

Local Action Group (LAGs) and Implementing Partners (IPs):

The Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) is the overall managing authority for LEADER in Ireland. However, decisions on LEADER funding are made at a local level by a network of Local Action Groups (LAGs).

LAGs work within a defined sub-regional geographic catchment area and are made up of both public and private local community members, including representatives from local government, businesses, non-profit organisations, and community groups. The collaboration of these stakeholders is crucial for identifying the unique needs of an area. A community-led Local Development Strategy provides the framework within which decisions are made.

  • Within LAGs, Implementing Partners are responsible for the day-to-day management and co-ordination of the LEADER Programme on the ground.
  • Implementing Partners provide funding applicants in their catchment area with grant application supports, such as advice, training and mentoring.

For further information on LEADER funding in your local area, including how to apply for grants, contact your LAG.

Learn More: 

More information on the LEADER Programme can be found on the Department of Rural and Community Development website.


Glossary of Terms

LEADER Case Studies

No leader case studies yet

Check back soon for leader case studies