Tuesday, 10 December 2019
OECD Report on SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland: Statements
I welcome the opportunity to make a short contribution on this important report. My colleagues, Deputies Troy and Scanlon, dealt with some of the details of the report earlier. I wish to refer specifically to the needs of the Border region. Through parliamentary questions and other debates in this House, we have discussed the particular challenges facing small and medium-sized enterprises in the Border region due to Brexit. As we know, such enterprises are the backbone of our economy and our region, on both the southern and the northern side of the Border. I know that some supports have been put in place but I again appeal to the Minister to ensure that additional supports are put in place to assist our companies through the transition that will happen post Brexit. That uncertainty, unfortunately, has not gone away. Brexit has been out of our daily vocabulary for some time because of the British general election, but we must deal with the reality that there will be adverse impacts of Brexit and, unfortunately, no benefits for our region.
In the past I have advocated, as have other public representatives and Members of this House, an all-Ireland industrial policy and business policy. It is a shame we have not established additional all-Ireland implementation bodies. In 1998, with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, six all-Ireland bodies were established. The premise at the time was always that additional bodies would be established in the area of trade promotion and health education. Sadly, we have not developed on that maximising of the potential of the Good Friday Agreement. In the areas the Minister, the Acting Chairman, Deputy Breathnach, and I represent, we know very well that many of our companies are cross-Border, all-Ireland bodies. They should be assisted by agencies that have an all-Ireland remit. There is a great case to be made at this time, due to Brexit, that we have all-Ireland industrial, business and trade promotion policies. This can only do good for business in the North and in the South and all-Ireland businesses. I would love to see this issue moved on.
Again, our economy, be it in Cavan, Monaghan, Fermanagh, Armagh, Tyrone or that general area, is very heavily dependent on small and medium-sized enterprises. Thankfully, with the assistance given in the past by the county enterprise boards and more recently by local enterprise boards, some of our small and medium-sized enterprises have become international corporations still based in our region. I note that at one point in the report the OECD states that the local enterprise offices are not fit for purpose. I have a great rapport, as I know the Minister does, with our local offices in Cavan and Monaghan. They have had great personnel working in them over the years. I sincerely hope, whatever additional systems or restructurings are put in place, that those personnel are given the resources to ensure they can continue to assist employment, generate jobs and grow the economy in our region.
With those few words, I appeal to the Minister to give further consideration to the points I have outlined in the past as well as this evening.