Tuesday 26 September 2017

Fast-track bid for new Newbridge credit union

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

A NEW credit union could be operating in Newbridge by Christmas.

The existing lender in the Kildare town was shut down in a dramatic late-night sitting of the High Court on Sunday night.

Savings and loans of the 37,000 members were put into Permanent TSB.

But now moves are afoot to create a new co-operatively owned lender in the area. The plan has the backing of Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

It is more than 20 years since the Central Bank has granted a licence to create a new credit union, but it now looks like a way has been found to re-establish a new credit union in Newbridge, while avoiding many of the bureaucratic requirements of creating one from scratch.

The Central Bank, which persuaded the High Court on Sunday night to close down the existing credit union and transfer its accounts to Permanent TSB at a cost of €54m to the taxpayer, admitted there was now a need for a new credit union.

At a four-hour meeting in the Kildare town this week, hundreds of people expressed an interest in joining a new credit union.

Willie Crowley, chairman of the Save Newbridge Credit Union Action Group, explained that a new credit union could be in place in six weeks.

The new credit union is set to be called Droichead Nua – the Irish version of Newbridge.

Normally it would take up to a year to meet the regulatory requirements to create a new credit union, but a fast-track creation of a new savings and loans co-operative can be achieved by it becoming an effective branch of an existing credit union.

Tullamore Credit Union, which ironically had been approached by the Central Bank to take over Newbridge CU before rejecting the bid, is in line to provide the infrastructure for the new credit union operation in Newbridge.

DEMAND

Mr Crowley said: "To bypass the existing red tape, we are exploring coming under the umbrella of an existing credit union."

This could be achieved by extending what is know as the "common bond" – this reflects the fact that credit unions are mutual organisations run for the benefit of members in a given area.

Extending the common bond would have to be approved by the Central Bank and the members of the credit union concerned.

Both the Credit Union Development Association (CUDA), which Newbridge CU had been a member of, and the Irish League of Credit Unions are making themselves available to advise on restarting a credit union in the town.

A spokeswoman for the regulator said: "The Central Bank is conscious that there is a demand for the services of a credit union in the local area and is examining what arrangements can be put in place to provide specific credit union services for the community in the future, including the possible extension of the common bond of credit unions in the local area."

A spokesman for Mr Noonan said he would assist the creation of a new credit union.

Irish Independent

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