Darragh McCullough: Why don't farmers use credit unions?
'Credit where credit is due in this age of cash-free banks and faceless vulture funds'
Why don't farmers use credit unions? Certainly if you were to go by the headlines in recent years, you could be forgiven for thinking credit unions were yet another example of some of the boom's worst excesses.
The aftermath has seen the number of credit unions nationwide shrink by about 100 to 274 branches and many are still dealing with legacy issues such as limits on the amount they can loan to any individual.
I must admit that until last week, I only had some vague notion that if you needed a dig-out with the holiday in Spain, the local credit union was a good bet. Indeed, many farmers have the impression that credit unions can only offer 'Mickey Mouse' loans, often at exorbitant rates.
But following the economic turmoil of the last 10 years, maybe we should be looking at financial services with a different perspective. We've seen the so-called pillar banks crumble and survive only by virtue of the largesse of the public purse. I try not to think about the €29bn that we, the taxpayer, pumped into the dying Anglo Irish Bank because the knowledge that my generation will be paying this off for the rest of our working lives will just eat me up inside.
Meanwhile, the vulture funds are slicing and dicing the tail-end of those of us with non-performing loans, and the contraction of bank branches and services at local level continues.
Is there anything more depressing than a bank without a counter where you can talk to a human? 'Cash-free' branches where little or no cash can be either lodged or withdrawn, along with teller-less offices where any interaction with an actual staff member can only be done by appointment is the way our biggest banks are trying to shore up profits.
They'll point to the fact that only three per cent of banking transactions are actually carried out over the counter as more and more business migrates online.
That may well be the case, but I wonder how much of the 97pc is accounted for by the masses of transactions that banks facilitate for fund managers and corporate types that inhabit and thrive in the digital sphere.