The Department of Children and Youth Affairs granted funding of almost €1.2m to 22 childcare facilities, which are no longer in service.

The Government introduced the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme, a €500m scheme which ran from 2000 to 2006, to increase the number of childcare places

Private and community-based childcare providers were granted funding through the Pobal Agency for creche buildings, fixtures and fittings.

Documents released to RTÉ News under the Freedom of Information Act, show that €1.2m in funding was granted to creches which closed shortly after opening.

Almost half of the money - €555,000 - was paid out before the facilities closed.

The documents show the State has so far written off almost €240,000 and is trying to get the former creche owners to repay a total of €315,482 Euro.

Just over €50,000 has been recovered so far according to the documents.

Eight of the childcare facilities were community-based facilities, while 14 were owned by private individuals.

In two cases, childcare providers cited the allocation of grants to a second provider in the same small town as key to their difficulties because there were not enough children requiring childcare places.

This is backed up by the findings in a 2011 investigation carried out by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which found that over half of the new places created by the end of 2010 were in excess of requirement.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances FitzGerald said that it was necessary and appropriate that the State's investment was protected.

She said applicants for grant funding had signed up to reasonable levels of conditions in return for the funding.

The organisation representing childcare providers - Early Childhood Ireland - said it was not realistic for the State to expect businesses which closed years ago to be able to pay.