Brendan O'Connor: We must fix credit unions – they are in our DNA
The movement is part of what we are, and many fear we will throw out the baby with the bathwater, writes Brendan O'Connor
More than 50 years ago, when the credit union movement kicked off in Ireland, we were a very different country. We were a country with high unemployment, hunger, emigration and a people in thrall to the scourge of moneylenders – okay, so it wasn't that different.
A teacher, a baker and a civil servant looked at the situation and spearheaded the setting up of the Dublin Central Co-operative Society, to encourage and found workers' co-operatives aimed at stopping the tide of emigration. With input from the ICA and their country markets movement, the Credit Union movement would grow out of this initiative, the credit unions' aim being to promote thrift and to offer credit at competitive rates, a community-oriented project where people pooled their savings and then lent to those who needed credit.
Profit was not the imperative, but to help the community.