Finance Minister Michael McGrath has assured business leaders in Killarney that he will do everything he can to support the town and help it to prosper going forward and to ensure projects that will improve the community will be given the funding consideration they warrant.
Speaking at the inaugural Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce President’s Lunch, Minister McGrath remarked: “You have a friend in myself. I will do everything I possibly can to support you”.
Noting the major improvement in the Irish economy, the minister said there are challenges to be faced but the public finances are in a good place and Ireland has turned a corner with the labour market fundamentally strong.
“We have more people working in Ireland now that at any point in our country’s history with almost 2.6 million people employed. The unemployment rate is currently at 4.3 per cent and, historically, that would be considered close to full employment,” the minister told the gathering in the Killarney Plaza Hotel.
The fact that the Irish economy is expected to grow this year makes the country an exception in terms of the international headlines and Minister McGrath said while there was a budget surplus of €5 billion for 2022 and the national debt has stabilised, the government is actually in a position to put funds away into a national reserve.
“That is a sensible thing to do and I know people question it when there are needs out there and things need to be done but we have to be cautious,” he said.
On the subject of the nine per cent VAT rate for tourism, which chamber president, Niall Kelleher, asked to be retained for the benefit of business, the minister said he was hearing that message “loud and clear” and he acknowledged the importance of the reduced rate for the sector.
A decision will be made on the matter in the coming weeks when we look at all the supports implemented during the pandemic and an effort will have to be made to strike the right balance.
“I can’t give any guarantees but I hear Niall’s message and it will be considered,” Minister McGrath stated.
The minister acknowledged the resilience demonstrated by the business community in Killarney over the last three years which he described as a very difficult period, in particular for those in the tourism and hospitality sector.
“We asked an awful lot of you by way of sacrifice and you stuck with it. We did the best we could as a government to support you but public health came first and there was a great strength in our collective approach as a country,” he remarked, adding that the recovery had exceeded all expectations.
Minister McGrath congratulated Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce for its advocacy work and for raising issues on behalf of its members and he said the chamber’s voice has made a real difference.
It is essential, he added, that the government receives feedback from those on the ground.
He also acknowledged the strong performance of the economy in Killarney and he said nobody could dispute the fact that Killarney is the premier tourist destination in the country and it is so important that the good work being done locally is continued.
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