28 Nov 2021

Credit Unions need much greater flexibility, says Kilkenny TD

Political journalist Tim Ryan analyses and writes about issues at both local and national level

Letter to the Editor: Bigger is better for Kildare Credit Unions

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There is a need to ensure that, in the future, the regulation of credit unions is carried out on the basis of their general activities, allowing them to flourish and contribute to the significant issues in the lives of their members, Deputy John McGuinness told the Dáil.

Presenting a report on the credit union movement to the Dáil he said it is a significant burden on the credit unions that, even for smaller loans, they have to ask so much of the person making the loan application.

“There is no flexibility to allow credit unions, knowing the history of borrowers and what work is going to be done, to make simple and effective decisions on that basis,” he said.

“I do not know of many loans that the credit unions have given out that have faltered on the basis of poor information or not understanding the means of borrowers or the purpose for which money was being borrowed. They have a good track record.

"The Central Bank and the regulator should understand the movement far better and should be prepared to provide the flexible legislation that the credit unions are asking for and that Members of this House see as being essential for the credit unions to perform their duties to the fullest extent.”

Deputy McGuinness said he was a member of the County Enterprise Board in Kilkenny many years ago when it linked up with the credit unions.

Analysis was carried out by the board and the credit unions supported by way of funding the projects that were approved. That initiative worked and it was significant for the small businesses it supported.

“We have to allow flexibility within the credit union movement to ensure individual members can grow that type of business and be an effective lender in the market to those who want to build from scratch or whose businesses are small enough to engage with them,” he said.

“The threshold for the amount that can be loaned needs to be examined in the context of what the credit union movement wants to achieve.”

Similarly, in recent times, he said permission has been given for the movement to invest in housing initiatives but the amount is tiny relative to what it could provide.

“Its €8 billion in surplus funds should be put to work in a better way for local economies and to provide a solution to the problems of expanding small businesses and addressing the housing crisis,” he said.

“Credit unions have a huge role to play and we need to consider that to ensure they can put their money to work in this context.”

Women still not treated equally in Irish society

In Ireland today women are not equal, Fianna Fáil Senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor told the Upper House. “They are called love, darling and sweetheart and often talked over, talked down to and sometimes taken for fools,” she said.

“This inequality is reflected in boardrooms, managerial positions and, worst of all, pay levels. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 should serve as a reminder of how far we have actually not come and the mountains we still have to climb.”

Fianna Fáil is actively seeking equality in every sector, she said. “We seek an Ireland in which one can be what one wants to be, regardless of gender, orientation, place of birth or bank balance.

"We are committed to addressing issues such as the gender pay gap, the barriers to female political participation and expanding boardroom membership for women.

"I applaud the brave Irish women who take a stand to represent the people. I encourage more and more of them to walk these halls, speak loudly and clearly, represent women and men, old and young, fight injustices, root out inequality and be taken seriously.”

Speaking during a debate on 100 years of women’s suffrage, Senator Murnane O’Connor said there has been talk of the 40% increase in female representation in Parliament since 2011.

"It was brought about by the introduction of gender quotas, which allowed for a party's State funding to be cut by one half, unless 30% of its general election candidates were women and 30% were men.

“I suggest we have worked hard,” she said. “While we have worked hard, I encourage more women to be involved. It is not about men or women but about the work women could do.”

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