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Noonan should know better than to listen to banks - ISME

ISME chief’s comments come after the Minister said SME debt is far down his list.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

FINANCE MINISTER MICHAEL Noonan should “know better than to listen to banks” when it comes to SME lending, according to one small business leader.

ISME chief executive Mark Fielding said that the debt overhang from bad property loans that are linked to specific businesses is “a long way from being sorted.”

He was speaking after Minister Noonan said yesterday in Brussels that he had other priorities higher on his list than sorting out SME debt.

Speaking to reporters, Noonan said:

The SMEs are being sorted out…as far as we’re addressing the legacy debt from the recession, the SMEs would be far down the list.

He said that Bank of Ireland have over 90 per cent of SME debt restructured while AIB claim to have 65 per cent done.

However, Fielding said:

“I would be warning him not to be taking exactly what the banks say, because they have a history of terminological inexactitude about the situation with regard to SMEs.”

His comments were echoed by Chambers Ireland deputy chief executive Sean Murphy.

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Murphy said: “I would question him saying they’re far down the list…they should be front and center, a core priority for everyone concerned with the Irish economy.”

Murphy said that he hoped rising property prices would lessen the burden on SMEs that are carrying bad property debt.

Patricia Callan of the Small Firms Association said that she was not overly concerned by Minister Noonan’s comments, viewing them as an attempt to signal to Europe that the SME sector is performing despite warnings over its vulnerability from Morgan Kelly.

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Jack Horgan-Jones

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