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Credit Union Restructuring Board (Dissolution) Bill 2019: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 8

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  9 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin] ReBo also assisted credit unions that wished to merge or otherwise change. I know some individuals were put out by the mergers but, in the round, they were sensible moves that allowed some smaller credit unions to find shelter. The Bill, therefore, simply unwinds ReBo, which is no longer needed as the sector has reconfigured itself. I am pleased to confirm that Sinn Féin will support the Bill's passage through all Stages.

The Minister will take on the responsibilities of ReBo, including legal liabilities. Can he clarify whether there are many outstanding legal cases involving ReBo and what anklet has been reserved to deal with those cases?

We support the Bill. I commend the credit union movement on its resilience through very difficult times. While the banks failed the Irish people, the credit union movement remained a rock for many families.

The recently published report of the Credit Union Advisory Committee shows the way forward for the sector. The much-heralded tiered regulation must become a reality. I still have serious concerns that the Central Bank regards the credit union movement as an amalgam of hundreds of small banks to be regulated with a big stick rather than as unique community-based institution serving families in a way that banks do not or do not want to do. I note the report of the Credit Union Advisory Committee also made the case for increasing the lending rate cap from 1% to 2%. This move makes sense and is in line with Sinn Féin's unanimously supported consumer credit Bill, which places a cap on moneylenders. This would, of course, be a voluntary move for each credit union. Will the Minister of State indicate his position on this and consider making such an amendment to this Bill?

It is incredible that, in the midst of an ever-worsening housing crisis, the Government and Central Bank have yet to facilitate the credit union movement to provide for housing loans. It is shocking that the political will to make this happen has been so elusive. The Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy English, gave a commitment that the SPV to be used by the Irish Council for Social Housing would be ready by the third quarter of 2018. He has said since that it would be the first quarter of this year. By my calculation, that gives him a couple of weeks, perhaps, to meet the deferred deadline. Will it be ready? Importantly, will it be in line with Central Bank regulations?

ReBo has served its purpose. It can be wound down. Thankfully, it never became a NAMA, either in the public mind or in reality, because, unlike the banks, the credit unions have a culture that is about sustainability and community. As a proud and, may I emphasise, grateful member of my local credit union, I say "Well done."

Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice: Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill, which I welcome and will be supporting. We need, however, to recall the days when the country was in trouble. As was pointed out earlier, the then Minister for Finance said in the Seanad that the credit unions would require up to €1 billion. It was probably not his view as someone probably gave him that information. Regardless, it was reckless information because it sent a shiver down the spines of many around the country who started off the credit union movement and volunteered from town to town.

We do not realise the amount of good work credit unions do throughout the country. In smaller villages and towns, the banks have absconded after getting the money. The Minister of State referred to a figure of about €11 million. The credit unions have basically stood up to the mark and funded themselves. That needs to recognised when we bear in mind that we put €60 billion into banks and got damn-all out of it. It shows the credit unions were prudent and worked in a good way around the country.

Consider how the banks operated 20 or 25 years ago. When one goes into a credit union now, one does not see a machine, which is what the banks now have. One sees a person who will say hello. This is especially good for the elderly. The credit unions have that touch. I have said time and again that the Government needs to give the credit unions the facility to lend money. I am aware there is a fund of €16 billion or €17 billion but the biggest problem in many areas is lending the money. We need to ensure we can facilitate lending as best as possible. In areas that the banks have left, the businesses have gone to the credit unions. The credit unions provide the change for the pubs and shops and they provide all the various facilities required. We need to make it increasingly possible to use a card at an ATM in a credit union.

There was a problem when the clearinghouses were costing the credit unions serious money. There was a debacle whereby the main banks were causing the block. The credit unions are going to the banks of rural areas that the bigger banks have left. They need all the various facilities of banks because this will be the salvation of many parts of this country.

Coincidentally, I received an email this evening stating St. Jarlath's Credit Union received today an award for being the best credit union in Ireland. This is a great achievement for Mr. Mick Culkeen and all the staff. St. Jarlath's started off in Tuam but amalgamated and is now in Mountbellew and many other locations. It is now providing loans of up to €150,000 in certain cases. The problem, however, is that some credit unions may have €15 million in a bank account but have a problem lending it because only so many bigger loans may be given in proportion to the smaller loans. The Central Bank needs to give the credit unions the facility to work around this. My local credit union, in Glenamaddy, managed by Mr. John Murphy, offers considerable help to people. The credit union is always the first to offer sponsorship or provide funding, be it for a disaster fund or otherwise. This is because it is of the community and people from the community are involved. Although credit unions can hold their local identity, they need to bring numbers together to be able to borrow or lend in larger volumes. We must, however, give them the facility to try to match the banks because there is a deficit in areas that the banks have left.

I learned from the heads of the credit union that they wanted to help with housing, as Deputy Ó Caoláin stated. They have a large amount of money that they were willing to lend on a long-term basis to help with the housing crisis.

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