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Credit Union Regulation

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 4

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Credit Union Regulation

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan I thank the Office of the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this very important issue of the floor of the Dáil. Just after noon on Friday, liquidators were appointed to Charleville credit union. That was a huge shock to the people of Charleville and its hinterland. We should consider a number of issues in terms of how the liquidator was appointed. The timing is one such issue. The notification came in the early afternoon on Friday when many people would have their wages paid into their accounts on Thursday night and pensioners would have had their pensions paid in on Friday. An entire cohort of people has not been able to access their weekly wages or other funds on the Friday. The powers that be, in this case the Central Bank, should examine the situation and how the liquidation process was executed.

Charleville credit union had been working extremely hard in recent times to try to get out of a very difficult situation. The board of the now former credit union was working extremely hard with the Central Bank. The Central Bank said Charleville credit union was not insolvent. The situation is very difficult for people in Charleville to swallow given that the credit union was founded many years ago and provided an extensive service to people within the community. Many business people told me over the weekend how their funds in the credit union have been frozen. Reference has been made to guaranteed funds but many businesses had to resort to their own resources to keep them going and to provide cash to pay their employees last Friday afternoon. People were told it would take 21 working days before any moneys would be paid out which means people would be starved of access to money for the next three weeks to a month. That is simply not acceptable.

We could have a lengthy debate on how we came to the pass that was reached last Friday afternoon and how Charleville credit union was prevented from expanding or trading itself out of the difficulties in which it found itself. The board and staff of the credit union made significant sacrifices to try to put it in a good place. The question is where we go from here. We have no credit union services within the town and hinterland of Charleville. The credit union had 12,000 members. Today is 17 October. What plan is in place? Are the liquidators now going to wait for 21 days before giving money back to people? That would starve the community of resources in the shape of their own funds. As Councillor Ian Doyle said this morning on the radio many small and medium businesses and small traders will be adversely affected and the town of Charleville will be devastated. Will the Minister of State outline the plans of the Department and the Central Bank to make sure there is a functioning credit union in Charleville in the short term? I am not talking about the long-term future.

I am a major supporter of the credit union movement and the work it has done in every community, urban and rural, especially in Charleville. In the run up to the very busy Christmas period if we leave a void in terms of the credit union in Charleville we will force people to resort to moneylenders and all of the negativity that surrounds them. What are the plans of the Department and the Central Bank to deal with the situation?

There is a meeting in Charleville this evening to allow local people to air their concerns. People are right to be worried. If the Minister of State will pardon the pun, we need to see the colour of his money at this stage. We want to see what is envisaged for Charleville and its environs.

Deputy John Paul Phelan: Information on John Paul Phelan Zoom on John Paul Phelan I am responding to this issue on behalf of the Minister for Finance who wishes to thank Deputy Michael Moynihan for raising it. This is primarily a matter for the Central Bank but the Minister is fully aware of the strength of feeling locally about the situation in Charleville credit union and the restoration of credit union services. In terms of credit unions, the role of the Minister for Finance is to ensure that the legal framework for credit unions is appropriate for the effective operation and supervision of credit unions.

  The Registrar of Credit Unions at the Central Bank is the independent regulator for credit unions. Within his independent regulatory discretion, the registrar acts to support the prudential soundness of individual credit unions, to maintain sector stability and to protect the savings of credit union members. Where issues arise within individual credit unions, the Central Bank gives them time to implement remedial actions, including potential mergers. In the case of Charleville credit union the Central Bank has been engaging with it over a number of years seeking remediation of the weaknesses in its financial position. As the Deputy is aware, Charleville credit union had been exploring a number of different options in recent years and has explored merger discussions which have not been successful.

  The view of the Central Bank is that the inability of the credit union to address its reserve position, despite previous receipt of external funding, has resulted in it being necessary to apply for the winding up of the credit union. As the Central Bank, acting as independent regulator, is closest to the detail of this case it would be difficult for the Minister for Finance to second guess its expert opinion.

  The Central Bank of Ireland made an ex parte application to the High Court on 13 October 2017. The High Court approved the appointment of joint provisional liquidators, David O'Connor and Jim Hamilton of BDO, to Charleville credit union. The Central Bank took this action in order to ensure the protection of members’ funds. In presenting its assessment to the court, the Central Bank outlined that it believes all feasible options available to Charleville credit union to raise and maintain its reserves at the levels required by law have been exhausted. The joint provisional liquidators will oversee the closure and wind-down of the credit union pending a final decision of the court. The credit union will not reopen and all issues relating to the wind-down of services will be managed by the joint liquidators.

  The Minister for Finance can advise the Deputy that the deposit guarantee scheme, DGS, has been invoked and that members' savings are covered by the scheme up to €100,000 per member. Compensation payments will automatically issue by cheque to all duly verified depositors. The payments will be made as early as possible within the statutory deadline of 20 working days.

  The Minister for Finance can further advise that the Central Bank is conscious that there is a demand for the services of a credit union in the local area and will examine what arrangements can be put in place to provide specific credit union services in the Charleville community in the future. The Central Bank is keen that credit union services are available to the people of Charleville. In some cases members may currently be able to avail of services in another credit union in the area as the common bond may extend into their locality or through their place of work.

  The Government recognises the important role of credit unions as a volunteer co-operative movement in the country and while the roles of the Minister for Finance and the Central Bank in relation to the credit union sector are distinct, they are both working to protect members' savings and maintain the financial stability and well-being of credit unions generally. The Government is absolutely determined to continue to support a strengthened and growing credit union movement into the future. I will try to ascertain from the Central Bank what specific proposals it has and a timeframe for them in relation to the establishment of new credit union facilities in Charleville.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan I know what is in the reply. We could debate for the entire night why we have come to this position and whether the approach taken was heavy handed, but at this point what people are discussing tonight in Charleville is what is the future of a credit union service in Charleville. Saying the Government supports the credit union movement will not cut it. I seek a meeting with the Department of Finance tomorrow and I will also seek a meeting with the Central Bank to discuss how we will fill the void in Charleville, and how we will have a functioning credit union service available to the people there who have supported the credit union since the very start.

Could the Minister of State go back to the Department and the Central Bank? He accepted that there was a demand for a the services of a credit union in the local area and will examine what arrangements can be put in place. I would have thought the Central Bank would have examined what arrangements could be put in place to provide credit union services prior to putting the credit union into liquidation. I accept that there is a commitment that something will be done but that should have been done prior to last Friday. We need to have a functioning credit union within the Charleville area.

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