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The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation released the following statement:

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe TD, has said the announcement today that Allied Irish Banks is to make €500 million available to viable small businesses must be backed up by actual lending on the ground.

Minister O’Keeffe said: ‘AIB’s move today is a welcome response to the meeting I had with the bank last week at which I stressed the need to provide working capital to viable small businesses amid reports that many of them are being stonewalled when it comes to accessing credit to keep going or to expand.

‘But the bank’s pledge must be honored – and this Government will accept nothing less.

‘The Government will be closely scrutinising the proposals submitted by the two main banks to the Department of Finance last week to ensure that they are appropriately geared towards providing a credit supply to small businesses.

‘The credit reviewer, John Trethowen, with whom I met last week, will monitor the supply of credit and adjudicate on a new appeals process on behalf of borrowers.

‘I want to see our banks, which have been rescued at enormous cost to the taxpayer, acting responsibly and in the best interests of small businesses so that we can create jobs in the domestic economy and advance our recovery as a nation.

‘Small businesses employ some 700,000 workers here out of a total workforce of 1.9 million.

‘It is a sector I am determined to support.’