Kieron Brennan: Movement will continue to play vital social and economic role
THE announcement that for the first time in our history, a bank has taken over a credit union, was a sad day for the Irish credit union movement – which has delivered extraordinary service to its membership for more than 50 years.
The news is even more disconcerting when one considers that in the last five years the Irish banks, which cost the State €64bn, continue to remain moribund. There has been no significant lending and their mortgage arrears problem continues to escalate. In this environment, credit unions, while not shielded from the general economic difficulties, remain a coherent social and economic force in society. It should be remembered that Irish banks tripled in size (€201bn assets to €621bn assets) between the boom years of 2003 and 2008, borrowing heavily to fund this exceptional and unhindered growth.
In contrast credit unions grew at much more modest rates, growing by 38pc over the same period 2003-2008 (peaking at €13bn assets), and were self-financed throughout.