Credit Unions should be given far more scope to develop their services in rural Ireland following the withdrawl of the banks from many areas and the drop in the level of customer service that they are offering to the public. That was the view of Roscommon South Leitrim TD Michael Fitzmaurice when he spoke on a Fianna Fail private members bill on the credit unions in the Dail last Wednesday. He called for the credit unions to be included as full members in the Irish payment system.
“In rural Ireland, the credit unions are the new financial institution, even though they have been around for years. After the economic crash, the banks, which the people had bailed out, gave the two fingers to the smaller rural towns. There, thankfully, to pick up the slack were the credit unions. In every small village, in the credit union there are people who will smile at the customers and talk to them, not a machine they have to press buttons on. We have gone to a stage where, when elderly people, some of them in their 80s, go into a bank, they are being shown by staff how to press buttons and to bank online. There is no one-to-one service like there was at one time. The credit unions will help those old people and look after them” he said
“The Minister must facilitate the credit unions to be full members of the Irish payment system. People who are in business or doing any type of work need a system that allows direct debits, debit cards and, if at all possible, chequebook accounts. The credit unions will now have to be the new banks in rural Ireland. The Minister needs to do this. From what I understand, he was bullied into a situation by the banks a few years ago whereby this facility was not allowed. I spoke to a credit union today in Glenamaddy which, if it was to get this clearance system for itself, would have to pay €25,000, which is unviable. This is the least the Minister can do. We need basic payment access. In our area, in a 10 km radius, the credit union brought out a 5% loan for improvements on farms and houses. It has injected €1 million into a small area and created employment. Sadly, the Government seems not to want to give the credit unions the scope. If rural Ireland is to be revitalised – we hear all the parties and everyone going on about it – giving the credit unions access is the first link in the chain” he concluded.