St Patrick's Penny Bank to close after 60 years
The St Patrick's Penny Bank initiative in Enniscorthy is being forced to close its doors as a result of pressure being placed on it from the Central Bank.
Speaking to this newspaper about the shock development one of the bank's committee members, Jim Kearney, said a number of issues arose as a result of the growth of the penny bank - which this year celebrated its 60th anniversary.
'We have €1.4m in savings from members,' said Mr Kearney.
'It was set up in 1958 by Fr Tony Scallon to enable people to save money for Christmas and each year it just got bigger,' he added.
Such is the success of the initiative that this year the membership had to be reduced to 1,200 members.
'At its peak we would have had around 2,500 members,' said Mr Kearney.
A very significant aspect of the penny bank scheme is that the interest made goes towards numerous different local charities such as St Vincent de Paul, the Hope Centre, the graveyard committee and St Patrick's Special School.
'The people nominate what local charity or organisation they want the interest to go to,' said Mr Kearney.
'It's a community initiative and we are open on Friday evenings in the IFA centre,' he added.
In the beginning it was run from the Boy's Club and then the Athenaeum, however, for the last decade or so it's been operating out of the IFA centre on Millpark Road.
'We have had insurance for years to cover public liability and we also needed insurance to bring the money to the night safe - which was always under garda escort,' said Mr Kearney.
The first year of the penny bank recorded savings of £57, however, this year it is €1.4m and that, ultimately, has led to a situation whereby the committee can no longer run it.
They were notified by their insurance broker that the Central Bank required detailed information about people using the penny bank because it now regarded it as a financial institution.
Among the requirements made from the central bank were requests for photo ID and proof of address of all people saving in the penny bank.
'We would have to go from voluntary to fulltime and that's just not possible,' said Mr Kearney.
'Our final collection took place last Friday night (November 16),' he added.
The 10-member committee give their time for free to run the bank and everyone involved is very disappointed at the latest development.
'The insurance has also doubled and we just wouldn't be able to keep it going now [with the requirements],' he said.
However, he praised the insurance brokers, Creane and Creane, who he said had enabled the initiative to keep going until the end of the year despite having had pressure put on it to close in June.
'The insurance ran out on June 1 and they wanted us to stop it then but the broker got it to the end of the year so we were grateful for that,' said Mr Kearney.
A voluntary run organisation the committee members give their time on Friday evenings for people to put their savings into the bank.
Mr Carney said nobody wanted to see the penny bank closing but the committee's hands are tied on the matter.
'We just want to thank everyone who has supported it down through the years,' he said.
'All of the people who assisted and all of the people who saved in the initiative for years,' he added.
In addition to the savings benefits Mr Carney said it was also a vital social outlet for many people which will be very hard to replace.