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Enterprise Ireland boss calls for €35m fund to help firms affected by Brexit


Concerns: Julie Sinnamon

Concerns: Julie Sinnamon

Concerns: Julie Sinnamon

The head of Enterprise Ireland warned the Irish Government ahead of the Republic's Budget that it would need to create a funding pot of around €40m (£35.5m) for Brexit-hit firms given the "gravity" of the situation, it has been revealed.

Julie Sinnamon said the Irish Government would "very likely" need to revive the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund, which was introduced in the financial crisis to provide loans to vulnerable, but viable, businesses.

She also warned that the Brexit loan guarantee scheme - subsequently announced in Budget 2018 - may not fit the needs of all Enterprise Ireland firms, in part because the agency believed large companies would be excluded.

In a letter to then Tanaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Frances Fitzgerald in September last year, Ms Sinnamon warned that Irish exporters were facing an "unprecedented" challenge from both the devaluation of sterling and having to prepare for a hard Brexit.

She noted that more than 1,500 Enterprise Ireland client firms export to the UK, and employ more than 100,000 people.

"These companies that are deemed to be particularly badly exposed employ 40,000 people," Ms Sinnamon wrote in the letter, which was obtained under Freedom of Information.

"The majority of this employment is in the regions outside of Dublin. Job losses in these locations would erode employment in indigenous industry and the employment would be very challenging to replace considering their rural locations, sectors, and the nature of the employment."

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Ms Sinnamon set out four initiatives to help companies to prepare for Brexit and "deal with the current crisis", including expanding Enterprise Ireland's footprint overseas, a campaign to support market diversification, extending business angel funding and rolling out a Brexit Enterprise Stabilisation Fund.

She estimated the additional spend required for the initiatives this year to be €35m.