Supporting the self-employed is crucial.  Self-employed people have been dealt a very raw deal. These are our risk-takers, our employers and their employees pay the taxes that pay our teachers, doctors, nurses, gardaí.

If, through no fault of their own, they lose their business, why are they entitled to…. nothing?  We have to encourage  people to take risks and become entrepreneurs and develop business, because if not, there’ll be no-one to put money in the public purse.

It’s true that Ireland is seen as a world leader in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). The rewards and benefits multinationals have brought to our economy and society have been tremendous. Kildare has the second highest level of employment in multinationals in the country: 18.2% of our workforce, only Dublin has a higher level, with Galway coming next.

But it is SMEs that will drive our recovery and growth. Outside of construction and agriculture, SMEs provide 72% of private sector employment. In terms of job creations they are more dynamic than multinationals, creating jobs at a faster rate. While we would never underplay the role of the multinationals and what they have done for this country, there is a real risk to the future of Foreign Direct Investment in this country, especially if President Obama pushes through his corporate tax proposals – as a small open economy, we are always overly vulnerable to outside events.

SMEs are not just important because of the amount of jobs they create: it’s the type of jobs, in small businesses that are often the backbone of small communities and towns that would not offer other employment if it weren’t for local businesspeople. In terms of town centres, and keeping our communities and towns vibrant and alive and attractive to shop in, these businesses must absolutely be supported – by all of us. It’s about more than jobs, our quality of life depends on it.

But they are faced with tough challenges that can be the difference between keeping afloat and going under: high operating costs, cash-strapped consumers, and banks that are unwilling to lend. It’s time to turn the tide and offer SMEs real, tangible supports.

My party,Fianna Fáil, proposes to: reform and reduce the rates structure; ease the credit flow to SMEs by bringing in tax relief to individuals investing in them; set up a pilot scheme on crowd financing, which has worked in the UK, for smaller start-up companies; extend PRSI benefits to the self-employed if they want it; address the taxation difference between the self-employed and PAYE sector.

Kildare has the fifth largest labour force of all counties, and has, at 65.7%, the third highest work participation rate in the country. There’s a lot of disparity across the county though, with areas like Sallins at 75.5%, and Suncroft at only 58.5% - these are the areas of inequality we have to look at. Retail comes only second to industry in terms of commercial rates, (20.2%) showing just how valuable this sector is to our economy in Kildare. It’s great to see so many local producers coming through at food fairs and markets, there’s a return to small scale production, and it’s really about trying to be self-sustaining as much as we can, encouraging people to shop local, to keep these businesses going.

Here’s a link to a blog with good advice on funding streams for SMEs:

An article from the Sunday Business Post, 7 ways to raise funds without banks:!story/Home/News/SMES%3A+7+ways+to+raise+funds+without+banks/id/19410615-5218-50fe-45a8-a899f0722345

An excellent, independent website with all private and government funding streams with a unique planning tool: