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Fianna Fáil is to place major emphasis on balanced industrial development in the regions, Party Spokesman on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Dara Calleary TD told the AEJ on Thursday, November 13.

Complementing the IDA on the wonderful job it does in promoting Ireland abroad as a place to locate industry, he said there was a huge need, nevertheless, to favour the regions which had missed out on the previous economic boom.

Deputy Calleary said SMEs employ 700,000 people in Ireland and are the back bone of the economy. However, he said when a new SME is established and employs 10 or 11 people, it never gets the publicity it deserves.

He said many current SMEs were bogged down with legacy debt arising often from property investments that were made in during the boom era. While the businesses themselves were very often operating profitably, they were being dragged down with huge levels of debt. These were “not people who won’t pay but rather people who can’t pay” but would pay if given a reasonable opportunity to do so.

Deputy Calleary also called for a change of culture in Ireland towards people who had failed in business. He said such failures were very often the fault of the entrepreneur but rather of market conditions and other factors. He cited the United Sates where the notion of a person failing on one business and immediately moving on to the next is common place.

He also called for a change in the social welfare system to take account of self-employed people. He cited, as an example, a building contractor who employed 49 people at the peak of the building boom but subsequently went bust. He had paid all the PRSI and taxes so that the 49 employees were able to avail of their social welfare entitlements. However, the 50th person – the contractor himself – was unable to benefit as self-employed people cannot claim social welfare benefits.

Turning to the European Union, Deputy Calleary said he was a keen supported and regarded himself as a child of the EU, having been born in 1973, the year Ireland joined the then European Economic Community (EEC). But he said the institutions of the EU needed to be challenged more as it should be seen more as a union of the people. He said the European Central Bank could not be allowed “to run the show” as it had done during the economic crisis of recent years.

He added that in his view new Commission President Jean Claude Juncker had got off to a poor start because of the controversy over the tax status of Luxembourg which he himself had overseen as both prime Minister and Finance Minister. He said in his job, Mr Juncker needed a good week every week during his term of office if it is to be a successful presidency.