More than half of small and medium-sized companies have been refused credit by banks in the first three months of this year.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprise Association says its survey, which covered 400 firms, shows that 58% were refused credit by their banks in the last three months.

This figure is up from 48% in the last Bank Watch survey in February.

83% of companies said banks were making it more difficult for small firms to get access to finance. Just over half of the companies surveyed had been with their bank for ten years or more.

ISME said the Government should stop 'pussyfooting around' with the banks and force them to free up badly-needed credit.

Chief executive Mark Fielding said the survey's findings were at odds with public statements issued by the banks, and claimed that recent initiatives were 'nothing more than PR stunts'.