Thursday 27 October 2016

Credit unions deserve the State's support

Published 24/07/2014 | 02:30

Credit Union
Credit Union

The winding up of the Berehaven Credit Union in Cork is not the first indication that the credit union sector, which has three million members in Ireland and over €11bn in assets, is having its own troubles as a result of the financial downturn. However, it is reassuring to know that its troubles are in no way comparable with the banks, which practically destroyed the economy.

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We can take further reassurance from the Central Bank, which petitioned the High Court to appoint a liquidator to the credit union, that this is a 'once-off' problem.'

While most of the sector has been managed in a safe and prudent manner, there have been exceptions. Newbridge Credit Union had its operations transferred to the state-owned TSB Bank at a cost of €54m to the taxpayer and Howth and Sutton Credit Union was merged with another north Dublin credit union by order of the High Court. Undoubtedly there are other credit unions who have over-extended themselves and a programme of mergers has already been recommended for those which are no longer sustainable because of size or their balance sheets.

But, as Kieran Brennan of the Irish League of Credit Unions pointed out yesterday, "the movement as a whole is very strong ... the Government is backing the movement."

The government, as we all know to our cost, backed the banks, and it would be very remiss if it did not do everything in its power to ensure that the few credit unions which have got into trouble are wound down in an orderly fashion. Berehaven Credit Union was liquidated after the Central Bank became concerned about bad lending, a sharp fall in the value of its assets and poor internal controls and governance issues.

Thankfully we know that while some other credit unions have some of these issues, few have a fatal combination of all of them.The vast majority of credit unions are not only solvent but are open for business and anxious to lend to members.

'Dear Daughter' a fitting legacy for a true talent

Louis Lentin (81), who died in Dublin yesterday, will be remembered by most people for his RTE documentary recounting the life story of Christine Buckley, her time in Goldenbridge orphanage in Dublin and her 40-year struggle to find her father, a Nigerian doctor who eventually contacted her with a letter that began 'Dear Daughter' – a title which is now widely recognised as evoking a sad and shameful era in Irish life. Tragically Christine herself died from cancer earlier this year.

Lentin, a member of the artistic body Aosdana, was probably the ideal person to make such a documentary as not only was he a theatre director, filmmaker and head of television drama in RTE, but he also had empathy, as the grandson of Jewish Russian emigres who somehow made their way from Lithuania to Limerick, with those struggling to find their own identity.

"He was passionate about the impact and medium of television and he left a truly impressive legacy of work," said RTE director general Noel Curran, commemorating a man who began his career in broadcasting when the station opened in 1961.

But it was many years later, in the autumn of his career, that Louis Lentin heard Christine Buckley being interviewed by Gay Byrne, and used his powers of persuasion and his singular talents to make the work for which he is now best remembered.

Lentin deserves all the accolades he got for this groundbreaking documentary. He realised that while everyone has a story, Christine Buckley's was unique, and 'Dear Daughter' is a fitting memorial for both of them and will continue to be remembered as a watershed in Irish life and broadcasting. May he rest in peace.

Irish Independent

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