Private Members Business – Credit Unions

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I fully support the counter-motion which states that this Government has a clear policy to support the strategic growth of Credit Unions in Ireland.

 

Not alone has this Government provided clarity around the safety of members’ savings and the security of the sector as a whole, but we have consistently worked to ensure that this co-operative movement is supported and allowed to grow and provide the services that are necessary to households in 21st century Ireland.

 

For the vast majority of people in this state, the local Credit Union is the first port of call when a loan is required, be that for a car, education, a holiday or home improvement. It is these loans which are the mainstay of the Credit Union movement. To get a loan with the local Credit Union, one must have established a savings pattern and the Credit Union movement as a whole has done invaluable work in encouraging young and non-so-young people to establish a savings pattern.

 

Local, voluntary and co-operative are the key words in terms of Credit Unions and for many people in rural Ireland the local Credit Union is increasingly the only financial institution in their town, visible on the street and engaged with the local community.

10,000 volunteers make this presence possible and I know that in the case of East Galway many smaller satellite Credit Unions only operate for a few hours per week, manned at weekends by experienced volunteers.

 

The Commission on Credit Unions was a key action of this Government. The Commission had the dual mandate of protecting members’ savings and overseeing the financial stability of Credit Unions, while at the same time ensuring that these not-for-profit organisations were not choked by bureaucracy.

 

Participants, including Credit Union bodies and other stakeholders, agreed to the recommendations of the Commission and since the Act in 2012 over 60 of the Commission’s recommendations have been implemented.

 

The financial difficulties experienced by some credit unions after the financial collapse necessitated the merging of credit unions and with that in mind the Government established the Credit Union Restructuring Board. I am glad to note that Minister Noonan will review REBO later this year to see if it has completed its duties.

 

I don’t believe that the statements made by the opposition in relation to the original motion have any credence; this Government has worked hard to underpin the work of credit unions, to ensure that they can continue their important work in the community and that they continue to be the first port of call for so many families.

 

As the financial landscape changes, it is important to ensure that Credit Unions and their members are allowed to take advantage of all technological advances. As electronic payments become an increasingly important part of all of our lives, changes must be made to allow Credit Unions engage in online business and I believe that this government is committed to making every change necessary to ensure that Credit Unions continue to be at the financial heart of communities all across the state.