World Credit Union Conference Hears of Discrimination Against Irish Credit Unions

The continued anti credit union policy of the Irish government which required voluntary directors to be subjected to greater regulation than the Directors of the commercial banks was unacceptable and needed to change.

This was asserted by Independent MEP Marian Harkin when she spoke at the opening of the World Council of Credit Unions Annual Conference in Belfast.

“The record of service by Credit Unions to their communities, together with their record of financial stability compares very favourably with the performance of the banks which, for some inexplicable reason, continue to be favoured by government and the Central Bank”, she said.  The misguided attitude of the government was probably related to its concern to increase the value of institutions in which they have a substantial financial interest, she suggested.  “For its part the Central Bank is happy to go along with a negative attitude to the ambition of credit unions to expand services to members and, in the process, to increase competition for the banks”, she said.

The combined policies of the government, and of the Central Bank, had seriously damaged the business model of the not for profit credit union movement, the Independent MEP said.  “Regulations which seem to be deliberately aimed at undermining the voluntary ethos of credit unions, lending restrictions and difficulties placed in the way of providing new competitive services, are the hallmarks of the political and regulatory nexus currently existing”, Marian Harkin said.

A prime example of how the credit union movement could contribute even more to Irish society was the fact that the Irish League of Credit Unions had offered to provide €5 billion to assist in developing desperately needed social housing, she said.  “In a situation where the circumstances created by the government has prevented credit unions from maximising earnings from members funds it should be a ‘no brainer’ to avail of the ILCU’s enlightened offer to help resolve the national housing crisis”, the Independent MEP proposed.

As co-founder and current co-chair of the European Parliament’ credit Union Interest Group, she pledged to maintain active advocacy for the credit union movement in seeking to ensure that EU legislation would not, as in Ireland, discriminate against credit unions in favour of commercial banks.

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