Gardai quit credit unions organisation
Financially secure St Raphael's, with its 31,000 members, leaves Irish League
The country's biggest credit union has broken away from the Irish League of Credit Unions, it has been confirmed.
St Raphael's Garda Credit Union in Dublin, which has 31,200 members and assets put at €340m in 2014, confirmed its decision in a statement saying it had informed the umbrella ILCU of its "decision to cancel our membership of the League".
No reason was given for the Garda CU's decision to leave the ILCU which represents 339 credit unions in the republic and 95 in Northern Ireland.
The St Raphael's statement added: "We acknowledge the work the League has done for the Credit Union movement over many years and wish it and all its members every success in the future.
"Any suggestion that this decision was influenced by any individual or their political affiliation is without foundation."
No response was available from the ILCU over St Raphael's decision, which was taken at a board meeting last week.
It is understood St Raphael's will no longer be contributing the annual fee to the ILCU, which sources say is around €150,000 a year. This could not be confirmed. Like all the other ILCU members, St Raphael's also contributes to the ILCU's savings protection scheme, understood to be around €120,000 a year.
Sources say the Garda CU's decision was largely based on the reasoning that St Raphael's is financially secure and has no need for a group protection scheme or any other support from the League.
It is not clear if St Raphael's will form any association with the credit union umbrella group Credit Union Development Association (CUDA), which was set up in 2003 when some of the country's other big credit unions broke away from the ILCU. CUDA has 25 member credit unions.
This is a big year for the ILCU which is hosting the World Council of Credit Union's annual conference in June with 2,000 credit union representatives from around the world expected for the event at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast. The ILCU President is Brian McCrory from the Belfast Teachers' CU in west Belfast.
St Raphael's has emerged from the recession with its asset base intact and recently began offering its own mortgages up to €300,000. Its membership continues to increase despite, sources say, the latest generation of garda recruits finding its very difficult to save due to reduced pay levels.
Recruits are on basic civil service clerical salaries since the Government withdrew garda rent allowance of around €5,000 a year along with other allowances. Combined with a ban on overtime, eased only partly in the past year, many younger gardai found themselves in financial straits.
St Raphael's is now offering mortgages with a variable interest rate of 3.75pc. The Credit Union hopes this will be attractive to new recruits, who gardai say are facing problems renting in Dublin.
The ILCU found itself in the High Court last April during its presidential election process with Mr McCrory seeking an injunction to postpone the vote after circulation of what was termed a "contentious" email. The email was withdrawn and Mr McCrory elected with his court costs reimbursed.