Wednesday 24 April 2019

Quirky, sad, and heartwarming stories behind Credit Union loans revealed in new RTE documentary series

THe Borrowers kicks off on RTE One on Tuesday at 8.30pm

The Borrowers, RTE One. (LtoR) Michael, Thomas, Maurice, Derry, Kevin and Noranne.
The Borrowers, RTE One. (LtoR) Michael, Thomas, Maurice, Derry, Kevin and Noranne.
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

A 78-year-old man forced to travel to Belfast for a cataract operation having waited two years for treatment via the HSE is among the people featured in a new RTE documentary series about a Kerry Credit Union.

Thomas, who is already unable to see via his left eye due to the condition, is seeking a loan of €2,000 from Cara Credit Union in Tralee to cover the cost of the treatment, which he will later be refunded by the HSE.

The pensioner was told it would be six months before he would receive an appointment on the public system and a further six months before he would receive the treatment, by which stage he fears his eye would be further damaged.

“It’s a scandal in a way, isn’t it?” says Thomas in the first episode of The Borrowers, which airs on RTE One at 8.30pm tomorrow night.  “But hopefully this now the fact I’m going north will help to highlight the situation too.”

Thomas needs private surgery to save his sight and applies for a Credit Union Loan in episode 1 of The Borrowers.
Thomas needs private surgery to save his sight and applies for a Credit Union Loan in episode 1 of The Borrowers.

Cara Credit Union Loan Officer, Maurice O’Donoghue, feels for Thomas’ plight.

“It’s very frustrating to see that,” he says.  “We hear it in the news and we read it in the papers and then when you meet someone who’s going through it it suddenly drives it home.  It drives it home.  As good as this country is lads, there’s a lot of improvement needed.”

The Borrowers, RTE One (LtoR) Kevin, Noranne, Maurice, Derry, Michael and Thomas
The Borrowers, RTE One (LtoR) Kevin, Noranne, Maurice, Derry, Michael and Thomas

Thomas is travelling to Northern Ireland with other patients on a bus organised by local TDs, the Healy Raes, having seen an advertisement in the Tralee Advertiser.

It’s "never a surprise” to hear the Healy Raes are involved, says Maurice.  “How could that be a surprise?  The Healy Raes are keeping this country going,” grins Maurice (who, earlier in the episode, also reveals he's a big fan of novelty socks).

The Borrowers, RTE One. Gary and his dad Eugene
The Borrowers, RTE One. Gary and his dad Eugene

It’s not all bad news for Thomas, however, as his trip to Belfast will mark a major milestone.

“I was never out of the country before, never out of the 26 counties.  That’s an achievement in itself I suppose, to be able to stay at home!” he laughs. 

“I’d prefer to go to Ballyheigue or somewhere, or Ballybunion, somewhere locally in west Kerry.  I’m looking forward to a day in Belfast to see how other people live and see their culture and enjoy the situation.”

The Borrowers explores the very human stories behind their customers’ loan applications, whether they need cash for a wedding, christening, car or something a little more unexpected, like cosmetic surgery.

We also meet the loan officers who assess - and either approve, or reject - their applications. 

Among the latter is Derry Fleming, who will be recognisable to many as Bat Dad, who went viral in 2017 along with his family (even appearing on Jimmy Kimmel’s show) after a bat flew into their kitchen and the mayhem was captured on camera.

In the first episode Derry meets Michael, a musician hoping to travel to Nashville and Memphis where, he reveals, he will be meeting a lady who offered to show him around.

“Was there a spark like?” Derry asks Michael, who seems a bit taken aback by the enquiry.  “I’m just worried about getting the loan back!” Derry assures him.

Fellow Loan officer Colette Dolan, meanwhile, meets Gary (25), who is has been driven to the credit union by his father Eugene to apply for a loan to pay Eugene back €9,000 which he shelled out on his credit card for a car and insurance for Gary, who is still learning to drive.

“You would see a lot of the parent coming in and guiding the child how to get the loan,” Colette tells the camera.

The Borrowers airs Tuesdays at 8.30pm on RTÉ One

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