Minister Burke receives his seal of office from President Michael D. Higgins with Taoiseach Simon Harris also present.

Historymaker Burke aims to help SMEs

Minister Peter Burke says that one of his “key targets” as Minister for Enterprise and Trade will be providing more supports for small businesses in Westmeath and the rest of the country.

The Fine Gael man made history last Tuesday evening when, as was widely predicted, he became the first Mullingar person to be appointed to a senior cabinet position. Minister Burke said that this was a “great honour” and a “very humbling experience”.

Noting that new cabinet will only have a life span of eleven months, at most, before the next general election, Minister Burke said that “it is critical that I hit the ground running”.

“Everything about my work now will be done with urgency...We'll be working hard for my home town, as well as the entire constituency.”

A chartered accountant by profession, Minister Burke says that he is eager to introduce more supports for SMEs, which have had to contend with rapidly rising operating costs in recent years.

“One of the key targets that I have on the short term horizon is to see what I can do for the SME sector, for small and medium sized enterprises.

“We all know that small family businesses are the backbone of our communities, they provide the employment stimulus that keep our communities going. I'll be working within the bandwidth of the budgetary framework, between now and October to try and see what I can do to support them in the days and weeks ahead.

"I know our coffee shops, our hairdressers our small businesses are under pressure. I absolutely get that.

“I was just saying to someone recently there that when I was an accountant back in 2009, 2010 and 2011, I had small businesses coming to me asking how many employees they will have have to cut if they were to to survive? We're in a very different space than that, but nevertheless, we can't take for granted where we are. We really have to give them all the support that we can.

"There is a lot of change in the regulatory environment that businesses operate in. We have auto enrolment (the state's pension saving scheme) coming down the line, we have the sick pay requirements, we have the minimum wage requirements increasing.

"Each in themselves, they are to protect vulnerable workers, we have to be honest about that too; but equally, we have to measure the accumulated cost of all those changes on the small business. It's my job now to see how can I support small businesses with those changes, and to ensure that businesses that are viable, aren't put out of business because of any of those regulatory requirements. That will be my job now, and I'll do my very best in trying to capture that."