A Donegal County Councillor and hotelier is urging the government to take action so small businesses and tourism can survive the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cllr Michael Naughton has warned that many small businesses will not able to reopen after the pandemic, leading to permanent unemployment.
The Fianna Fáil is also calling for the phased and safe reopening of small businesses to bring more cashflow to the economy.
“The cure cannot be worse than the disease. Health and people’s lives are very important, but the longer we go on the longer we are closed, it has a bigger effect on Donegal. It will take years to get over this.
“With people out of employment there is no circulation of money. We can’t suffocate the economy. We have to get people back to work,” Cllr Naughton said.
Cllr Naughton said he would like to see some shops and smaller offices reopening in early summer, with social distancing in place.
“There is an onus on us as businesspeople to do our business in a different manner. We can’t suffocate Ireland forever,” he said.
As Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael intensify government formation talks today, Cllr Naughton said the restoration of tourism businesses after Covid-19 must be included in the Programme for Government.
“We have 750,000 people out of employment at the moment and here is a huge onus on the government to put these jobs back again.
“When we look at the last recession, tourism was the biggest provider of jobs outside Dublin. After this downturn, we have to sure decisions are not made for the big cities but are made to protect rural Ireland.
“Tourism will have to start from scratch when we reopen.”
Cllr Naughton is calling for emergency measures to ease the pressure on small businesses this year, including the scrapping of commercial rates, the introduction of a grant for cash flow and the scrapping of VAT for the tourism sector. “After a year we can bring the VAT rate back to 9%, where it should have stayed,” he said.
Cllr Naughton added that Brexit will be a ‘double whammy’ for the sector in Donegal when it begins to recover from Covid-19 closures.
“People are saying we’ll bounce back from this, but in tourism and small business, you can’t open your doors and expect to be back to normal. The domestic market is not big enough for everyone to survive,” he said.
Cllr Naughton said he has spoken to a number of his party’s TDs to put pressure on them to deliver on recovery measures.
“Here in Donegal, and everywhere else, tourism will have a big role in Ireland’s recovery going forward. Now is the time for government to take into account these issues.”