Aontú leader and Meath West TD, Peadar Tóibín has said the announcement of the 35 million euro COVID-19 Community and Voluntary Stability Scheme lead some local community centres currently suffering financial difficulties to initially believe they would benefit from the fund.

The COVID-19 Community and Voluntary Stability Scheme was announced by Michael Ring TD, Minister for Rural Development on 11 May, as part of a package for organisations who provide critical services to the most vulnerable in society and have seen their trading and or fundraising income drop significantly due to the current crisis.

The Meath West TD has said “we have been informed that local community centres which applied for the fund were deemed ineligible because they are not a registered charity or considered to have legal status. There are many such community centres providing a vital function within their local areas. They have a voluntary code o f practice and governed by a board of trustees who volunteer to manage the overall responsibility of their organisation and hold the title deeds to ownership. For the purpose of fundraising and generating income their legality is recognised by financial and legal services”.

Tóibín says “These types of community centres have had their normal fundraising initiatives brought to a complete halt because of COVID-19 which allow them to operate and offer necessary activities to members of their local communities. Services provided by these centres offer a protective effect to mental health and well-being with local elderly residents being among the most regular users. We are hearing increased reports of the isolation caused by cocooning among the elderly having a detrimental effect on their mental and physical health. These facilities will be needed even more so once restrictions are lifted”.

The Aontú leader said he contacted Minister Michael Ring’s office and it was suggested that any unsuccessful applicants were to consider applying for alternative funding from his department through the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, CLÁR, and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

Tóibín says “This is a totally unacceptable response from the Minister. These schemes had already closed for applications earlier in the year before the current crisis. The Minister would already have been aware of this as they are administered through his department. Cash-strapped community centres and community groups who have been informed they are ineligible under the Stability Fund need access to finances now if they are to continue to survive and meet their overheads.”

Tóibín has said he will be requesting Minister Michael Ring to extend funding to these local community centres that have already been notified their application was ineligible and any community centre who has been refused funding to contact his office in Navan, Co. Meath.