The formal announcement by the Central Bank and Financial Regulator on the 27th July of an independent strategic review of the credit union sector in Ireland came as no surprise to those within the credit union movement. The review was announced over 12 months ago and indeed the Irish League of Credit Unions has sought this review of the sector for some time now.
While much of the focus since the announcement has been on the financial performance of credit unions, the review is an opportunity to strengthen the credit union movement by identifying the key role played by credit unions in society and underpinning that role by reflecting on the support mechanisms, governance, operation and indeed the overall regulatory and legislative framework for credit unions.
This legislative framework will be crucial to enable the credit union movement to continue to evolve, develop and serve almost 3 million members on the island. Credit unions do not fear additional regulation; however this regulation must be appropriate, enabling and cognisant of the unique ethos of the credit union movement.
Of course credit unions have not been immune to the financial difficulties we are currently facing. We are working with our members on a daily basis to help them cope with the strain of job losses, pay cuts and manage their finances in the best manner possible.
In this time of economic uncertainty, it is unfortunate that most of the focus has been on the effects of the crisis on large profit making institutions such as banks, property developers etc. The real concern should be the impact on ordinary people who are struggling to make ends meet on a day-to-day basis. These are the real victims of the financial crises and are the people who credit unions are endeavouring to assist. During this review, the ILCU will endeavour to have the credit union movement treated as the unique, volunteer-led locally based, not for profit financial institution that we have always been, serving our members in good times and in bad.