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Credit unions feel the squeeze, too

Over the last two years, about 70,000 people have joined the country's 409 credit unions in the hope of getting loans which they cannot obtain from the banks.

But restrictions recently imposed by the Central Bank have reduced the flow of credit -- drastically in many cases -- and made families' struggles much more difficult.

Parents have taken their children out of third-level colleges. Others find it harder to pay utility bills. Some have resorted to moneylenders, a decision fraught with danger.

Silena Gilleece, of the Credit Union Managers' Association, says that a credit union with 5,000 members can be told that it may not lend more than €100,000 in a month.

In other words, it is restricted to 20 loans of €5,000 each.

The lending limits now apply to 70pc of the institutions.

This is a remarkable figure. Undoubtedly some credit unions engaged in over-lending, and unwise investment, during the boom.

But their mistakes were small by comparison with the reckless lending engaged in by the banks.

And now they have an understandable grievance.

The Central Bank refuses to tell them the criteria being used to determine the lending limits.

It does concede that they can be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

They should take advantage of this concession.