Jobs at risk as court finds against Forum

Supporters gathered outside the studios of Connemara Community Radio ahead of the debate
Supporters gathered outside the studios of Connemara Community Radio earlier this year

Staff and campaigners at Forum Connemara were left reeling last week following a ruling by the High court that could result in the loss of seven full time jobs in the area in October.

The Letterfrack-based Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) has been campaigning since the divisive awarding of a social inclusion programme tender to an East Galway development company in March 2015. Forum argued that the tender process was flawed and that a local company was best placed to oversee the scheme in Connemara.

Last week’s ruling, however, found that the decision taken by Galway County Council to award the contract to Galway Rural Development was not flawed in law.

A statement from Forum said: ‘Forum Connemara is disappointed at the recent High Court judgement regarding the SICAP [Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme] case. Forum is currently considering its options going forward.

‘For over 25 years, Forum has managed and delivered a wide range of services and supports to community groups, older people, young people and children, disadvantaged families, the farming community and vulnerable individuals.

‘This court ruling cuts off the funding source that allowed Forum deliver these essential services to people and groups throughout Connemara.’

An earlier High Court ruling in March of this year found that Forum had not brought its claim in a timely manner, having known about the premise of the tender process since September 2014. The court also ruled that as Forum had engaged in the tender process, it could not challenge the nature of the process when it failed to be awarded the tender.

Although Forum recently secured its future delivery of the Leader programme in the area, the loss of the SICAP scheme will have a significant impact on funding and staffing levels.

There are also fears that the loss of decades of local knowledge will have an immeasurable and detrimental effect on the delivery of social inclusion schemes in the area.

A Forum spokeswoman added: ‘This loss of funding which comes into effect in early October means that Forum will be severely restricted in the services it can provide into the future. Up to seven full time staff will become unemployed on October 1, 2016.’