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Wednesday 7 December 2016

The helping hand to rise from ashes

Charity supporting the self-employed is up and running in Laois, says Darragh McCullough

Published 05/10/2010 | 05:00

Laois farmer William Prior is one of the founders of the financial support group Phoenix Ireland
Laois farmer William Prior is one of the founders of the financial support group Phoenix Ireland

A new support group has been set up to help self-employed people who are hitting hard times.

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The Phoenix Project -- New Beginnings was set up by Laois-based businessmen, including former auctioneer and farmer William Prior.

"There was a huge number of farmers coming into my office regarding short-term land lettings who were under enormous pressure because the banks were tightening up all their credit lines," says Mr Prior.

"The number of self-employed people that I was coming across in a bad state got me thinking," he said.

"They aren't able to just walk into the dole office to sign on because they were self-employed and yet they can't afford to employ an accountant or solicitor to get themselves straightened out."

To address this growing gap in services, Mr Prior joined up with ex-Laois County Chairman Tom Jacob and builder Liam McMahon. All had first-hand experiences of the fall-out from the Celtic Tiger collapse.

For the past year, they have dedicated their time to establishing a charity to provide support and professional advice to those experiencing severe financial stress. The organisation is now embarking on a fund-raising drive to raise enough money to keep the organisation going.

"We reckon it will cost about €1m a year to run," said Mr Jacob. "We will have 15 professional staff based at a dedicated office in Portarlington. MABS [Money Advice and Budgeting Service] is already doing some of this work but they specialise in family finances. We're focusing on helping those whose small business has hit the wall. It could be anything from doing out an alternative payments plan to present to the bank or giving a client legal representation in the Commercial Court."

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According to Mr Jacob, the response has been fantastic with hundreds of people visiting the Phoenix Project stand at the Ploughing Championships.

However, Mr Mahon was keen to stress that the service will be completely confidential.

"Farmers are proud people and they don't want everybody knowing their business," he said.

The Phoenix Project is raffling a Honda TX 250cc quad bike. Contact them at www.phoenixproject.ie

Irish Independent