Call to protect small businesses
The Government has been urged to protect jobs and save struggling businesses by cutting public utility costs.
The Small Firms Association (SFA) said state-influenced costs like electricity and transport need to be slashed to help traders stay competitive.
SFA director Avine McNally also called for policy changes to make sure prices stay low when economic growth returns.
"Small Irish businesses have taken harsh steps to regain cost-competitiveness, yet many costs remain outside their control as they are Government-influenced," she said.
"When these costs are passed on to the rest of the economy, competitiveness and jobs are lost."
In its autumn economic statement, the association also warned that access to credit remains a serious challenge to small businesses, with one in five not receiving enough.
Ms McNally said up to 50,000 firms and 160,000 workers are at risk as a result of the credit problem.
"There has to be a greater understanding in the banks of the environment in which small firms are trading," she added.
"Banks normally appraise future credit risk on the last few years of a company's financial performance.
"Given the current situation, this type of system is unlikely to provide a full picture of the overall viability of a business and this has to be taken into account if many viable businesses are to be given the credit they so critically require."