CREDIT UNIONS AGM KILLARNEY 2012
'Members Matter Most'
The Irish League of Credit Unions has used its AGM in Killarney (April 2012) to consider the recently published Report from the Government Commission on Credit Unions. The debate around the report was insightful and informative with credit unions acknowledging and welcoming the changes and challenges that lie ahead for the sector while critically analysing many of the report's recommendations
Addressing over 2,000 delegates at the INEC, President of the ILCU Jimmy Johnstone said: "The challenge is to take the lead in the new order of things. We must take the opportunity that presents itself now to be the masters of our own destiny. Credit Unions are successful leaders in the world of cooperative finance. It is that success over the last 50 years that has brought us to this point – to what can be a new beginning. Generations have passed the torch to us, our members and the generations to come will judge us on what we do now."
The Minister for Finance Michael Noonan TD, added in his address to delegates: "Credit Unions have been part of local communities in Ireland for over 50 years. In that time, many tides have come and gone in Irish and International affairs, but credit unions have remained a durable presence throughout the country. No doubt the strength of the movement over the years has been its not for profit mandate, community focus and above all, the dedication of thousands of volunteers."
The AGM was told that the 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. Membership of Credit Unions is almost 3 million and the Irish movement has the biggest per capita membership of any other movement in Europe.
In Northern Ireland the 103 Credit Unions and their 410,000 members have seen regulation transferred to the Financial Services Authority (FSA) since March 31st, 2012. Discussions at AGM centred around progress since the change-over. The League has been fully engaged in the process and is working with individual credit unions to examine how the new regulatory environment can be availed of to roll out enhanced new services to members.
Members also discussed the opportunities that re-structuring within the sector will present. The process, which will be overseen by a restructuring Board (ReBo) will be established by the Government in the coming weeks and will support credit unions who wish to voluntarily amalgamate within a timeframe of 4 years. Re-structuring will not apply to all credit unions and there will be those who will continue to operate successfully on a stand alone basis. Delegates were vocal about the need to maintain the volunteer ethos of the movement and it was highlighted that any restructuring should be cognisant of the value volunteers have brought to movement over that past 50 years and will continue to do so into the future. Minister Noonan will move in the next few weeks to establish the ReBo to ensure that the challenging timetable for restructuring outlined in the Commission report can be delivered upon. The ILCU will hold information roadshows to discuss the report of the Commission on Credit Unions and inform submissions to proposed legislation due to be introduced in June 2012.
Speaking on the upcoming Credit Union Bill due to published shortly, Minister Noonan said: "The recommendations from the final report of the Commission of Credit Unions will inform new legislation due to be published shortly. The upcoming Credit Union bill will give effect to the changes to regulation and governance which are essential for the the development of the sector. The changes will be introduced on a phased basis over time and will be calibrated according to the tiered regulatory approach. It will create an environment for credit unions to grow and improve the quality of services available to members."
Each year the ILCU awards two young people a scholarship to attend the World Council of Credit Unions Young People's Conference which will take place in Gdansk, Poland this year. The winners, Maire Doyle from Naomh Brendain Credit Union in Loughrea, Galway and Claire O' Reilly from Rivervalley and Rathingle Creidt Union Swords Dublin underwent a rigourous selection process and were deemed that candidates with the potential to make the strongest contribution to the development to the credit union movement.
Delegates at AGM were addressed by Michael O' Muircheartagh who gave an inspirational and highly motivational speech and the strength of co-operatives in ireland. He praised the work of the credit unions and urged delegates to embrace the need for change to ensure that members get the best possible services in these difficuty financial times.
Speaking at the end of the 2012 ILCU AGM, ILCU President Jimmy Johnstone: "We recognise the need for change and we are willing to play our part in managing that change. I have no doubt that credit unions will rise to the challenge. The abiding strengths of the Irish credit union movement who have brought it this far will stand to you in the face of the challenges and opportunites that lie ahead."