A decision to shut down a youth project in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, creates a vacuum for 500 people who use the service weekly, according to a local TD.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has confirmed it has withdrawn funding from Youth Work Ireland Roscommon North East Galway, following two reviews which examined the organisation's finances and governance, as well as services provided.
The department has also expressed concern about the organisation's decision to close "without this department's permission" a project in Ballygar, Co Galway, which targeted, in particular, young Travellers .
A member of the project’s board said the closure was ironic given the spotlight now on Ballaghaderreen and the need for facilities there because of the decision to accommodate 82 Syrian refugees , including 37 children and teenagers, in the town.
A spokeswoman for Minister for Children and Youth Affairs
said a decision had been made to withdraw funding worth over €200,000 annually, for two youth projects in Ballaghaderreen and Ballygar, and a youth information centre in Roscommon town, all operated by the project.
She said this followed the failure of the organisation to provide assurances that it could manage the provision of quality youth services in the area “and to make good use of Government funding for these purposes”.
Deirdre Kelly, secretary of the board of the project, said the “plug had been pulled” when they were three-quarters way through carrying out the recommendations contained in the reviews.
She added that it was “factually incorrect” to say they had shut down the Ballygar project, as although the premises closed, an outreach service had remained.
Ms Kelly said progress may not have been as fast as the department had hoped, but the decision to withdraw funding was “unfair” give that so much progress had been made by the voluntary members of the board .
Fianna Fáil Roscommon Galway TD Eugene Murphy said the Phoenix Youth Centre in Ballaghaderreen was a "vital service" which was used by 500 young people each week.
He said that as well as the closures in Ballaghaderreen, Ballygar and Roscommon, other youth facilities had closed in the area, including centres in Castlerea and Arigna, Co Roscommon and at Castleblakeney, Co Galway. Mr Murphy estimated that the total budget involved was €400,000 annually.
“There may have been a need for changes in how the organisation was run but what we don’t want now is a vacuum, and we need the Minister to say when the facilities will reopen” he said.
The department said that before deciding to withdraw funding, it had “very fruitful engagement” with the Galway/Roscommon Education and Training Board to ensure replacement services are put in place.