The Small Firms Association has predicted that the country's small businesses will create 25,500 new jobs in 2019.

The SFA said that two thirds of its member companies plan to take on additional staff next year across a wide variety of sectors, giving a boost to villages, towns and cities across Ireland.

In its end of year statement, Sue O'Neill, Chair of the Small Firms Association, said that 2018 was a challenging but successful year for small businesses. 

"Difficulties attracting staff, Brexit and increasing business costs are the main obstacles for small businesses in Ireland. However, as the year draws to a close, feedback from our members shows small firms feel that the business environment is improving.

"Domestic economic growth in 2019 is likely to be close to 4.5% and our members see this as the biggest opportunity for their business in the coming year, despite the external backdrop," Ms O'Neill said.

But she also noted that feedback from SFA members suggests that small business owners' intention to invest in their businesses has declined over recent months. 

She said that in the run-up to Brexit small firms are expected to more cautious regarding investment decisions until there is more certainty of what the final relationship between the EU and UK will look like.

"The SFA urges the EU and UK Government to make every effort for a decision on the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

While a no-deal outcome remains unlikely, the SFA calls on the Irish Government to step up preparedness planning by putting in additional measures to support small firms respond to such an outcome", Sue O'Neill added.

The SFA has also called for the introduction and implementation of a national Small Business Strategy for Ireland. 

This initiative wants the Government to target the development of small business across all regions with just as much energy and strategic focus as they have put on attracting foreign direct investment from the 1950s to the present day.

This initiative is calling on Government to target the development of small business across all regions with just as much energy and strategic focus as they have put on attracting foreign direct investment from the 1950s to the present day.