The LEADER Initiative (Liaisons Entre Actions de Development de l’Economie Rurale) was established by the European Commission in 1991. Focussing on the development of sustainable and smart rural communities, it has been highly successful across the European Union and in all rural areas of Ireland, including Carlow Town and County.

Since 2002, the LEADER programme has been a key element of our Rural Development Strategy and has successfully supported communities and rural businesses in a number of ways including providing targeted and relevant advice, training, mentoring, feasibility studies, business planning and community planning, as well as capital assistance for construction, equipment and machinery.

The LEADER Programme accepts applications based on projects which improve:

  • rural tourism
  • enterprise development
  • broadband
  • basic services targeted at hard-to-reach communities
  • rural youth
  • protection and sustainable use of water resources
  • local biodiversity
  • renewable energy

The programme is administered at a local level by 29 local action groups. These contain local representatives from the community, public and private sector.

The LEADER programme has supported projects across a range of diverse themes such as enterprise development, rural tourism, enhancement of rural towns, the provision of services targeted at hard-to-reach communities, and the rural environment. The programme provides support in all aspects of rural life, from business supports to rural youth programmes, biodiversity, and renewable energy projects.

The LEADER 2014-2020 Case study Booklet developed by the NRN can be viewed here . Rural Business or community groups may find inspiration from the success stories illustrated in this Booklet.

NRN-LEADER-Programme-2014-2020-Case-Studies-Booklet-November-2021.pdf (

Transitional LEADER Programme

A new round of LEADER funding is now available under the LEADER Transitional Programme.  The transitional programme allocated budget for Carlow is €984,396

The Transitional LEADER Programme is a two year programme which will bridge the gap between the LEADER 2014-2020 Programme and the new LEADER 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 main priorities include:

  • 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.
  • Community based projects that seek to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Supports and capacity building for communities that have not previously received assistance under LEADER or other rural programmes.
  • Support for new and innovative projects in the areas of climate change, environmental protection and the green economy.
  • 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.
  • Projects that develop the concept of the Smart Village initiative or Rural Economic Development Zones (REDZs).

Here are some examples of LEADER supported projects for inspiration: 

Who can apply for LEADER funding?

  • Community groups interested in developing social enterprises, local facilities and amenities, infrastructure and services
  • Individuals and groups with a rural enterprise start-up idea
  • Existing rural businesses that are looking to expand or diversify their enterprise
  • Voluntary groups interested in promoting the environment and local social amenities
  • Partnership groups interested in working with each other for the benefit of the wider community

What are the rates and levels of aid available?
The following rates of aid are the maximum rate available. Please note that applicants who are successful may not receive the maximum rate of aid sought, which will be decided upon by Carlow Local Action Group.

  • Private applicant up to 75% for investment & other supports (to a maximum level of €200,000)
  • Community applicant up to 75% for capital projects & other supports (to a maximum level of €200,000, or where a community group has no economic activity €500,000)
  • Private applicant up to 75% or Community applicant up to 90% for analysis and development (to a maximum of €30,000)
  • Training Programmes up to 100% (to a maximum level of €200,000)
  • The minimum grant rate payable is €1,250.

If you would like to get in touch to discuss your potential project ideas, please contact:-

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