Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher has warned that many SME owners fear that the €25 billion guarantee fund allocated by the European Investment Bank in response to the challenges of Covid 19 will not reach the businesses that are most in need of the funding to survive.

Kelleher was speaking after raising the issue with the EIB’s Vice President, Andrew McDowell at an online meeting of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee.

“The way the EIB operates means that it requires intermediaries to process applications. In the case of Ireland, those intermediaries are our pillar banks.

“I really want to know how the EIB are going to ensure that all SMEs affected by Covid 19, and not just the favoured customers of the banks, can access some of these funds.

“Irish businesses, especially in the agriculture sector, have experienced significant challenges in accessing support in the past when local banks acted as gatekeepers and decision makers.

“It is crucial that companies are given equal opportunity to access funding and that their application is judged simply on merit and the viability of the business.

“We must also be confident that the EIB support will come in addition to the loans and support banks already offer, and not as an alternative. The purpose of this support is to open an additional channel of funding to SMEs in these challenging times, and not a replacement to allow overly cautious Irish banks to withhold their own cash from the real economy.

“Irish SMEs are desperate for new funding streams to keep them going through this very difficult time. Every one of them needs a chance to secure their future with an EIB loan, and not just the banks’ existing preferred customers,” concluded Kelleher.