The ILCU AGM was successfully held in Killarney this year and was attended by over 2,500 credit union representatives from all over Ireland. The weekend conference sparked insightful and informative debate, particularly around the recommendations outlined in the recently published final report from the Commission on Credit Unions.
Nobody needs me to outline the current economic climate faced by our credit unions and their members - we all see it every day on the news and in our credit unions. The unemployment rate averaged out at 14.4% during 2011 and the Central Bank forecasts that it will remain at this level during 2012. For those people still in work, their incomes continue to fall while taxes and charges are set to rise.
Despite the bleak economic picture, the credit union movement’s total assets now stand at almost €13.5 billion. Total savings are almost €11.6 billion and total loans are at €5.36 billion. These stats are still impressive and I commend credit unions for the excellent work that they do in serving your members’ needs in difficult times and in spite of the increased regulatory burden they all face.
Credit unions are doing a hell of a job in hugely adverse conditions and unfortunately, often do not get the recognition that they deserve for the excellent work that they do. But members know what you do and while some Government Ministers may think that people do not appreciate or understand the difficult economic situation this country faces, I can assure them that credit unions and their 3 million members fully understand the difficulties we have to face.
The Commission on Credit Unions was established by the Minister for Finance at the request of the ILCU. It published its Interim Report last October and its Final Report just recently. I want to commend the members of the Commission for their efforts and for completing their extensive task within the timeframe allocated. I want to thank the Minister himself for establishing the Commission and ensuring the prompt publication of both the Interim and Final Reports.
The result of the Commission’s work is a set of recommendations that will inform legislation due to be published shortly. Some of these recommendations will seem more favourable than others when viewed by credit unions - others may take a different view.
While the Movement will need time to digest and comprehend this report we want to see implementation of recommendations. Credit Unions recognise the need for change and we are willing to play our part in managing that change. There are challenging times ahead then for us all. The challenges we face are many and we must not dissipate our energy on challenges that, though testing, will not break us and in time we may bend to our advantage. I have no doubt that credit unions will rise to the challenge. I have no doubt that the ILCU will rise to the challenge. I have no doubt that credit unions will rise to the challenge.
"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things" - The Prince, Nicolloi Machiavelli
That is the challenge then - to take the lead in a new order of things. We must take the opportunity that presents itself now to be the masters of our own destiny. Inaction, delay and lack of unity on our part now, will result in us being forced along a path not of our own choosing.
Credit Unions are all successful leaders in the world of cooperative finance. It is our success, over the last 50 years that has brought us to this point - to what can be a new beginning. Generations which have passed the torch to us, our members and the generations to come will judge us on what we do now.
Let us take the lead in a new order.
“Ní neart go chur le chéile.”