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The Irish credit union movement was founded as a result of the efforts of three dynamic, pioneering and entrepreneurial people namely Nora Herlihy from Ballydesmond, a teacher based in Dublin, Seán Forde an employee of Peter Kennedy Bakers, Dublin and Séamus P. MacEoin from Kilkenny, a Civil Servant working in Dublin.

In Dublin in the 1950’s, they witnessed the effects of high unemployment: sickness, malnutrition, money lending, hunger, poor clothing, poor housing, and inevitably, emigration of one parent or of the whole family. In addition, state unemployment benefits were low and did not last indefinitely leaving many families in abject poverty.

The founders recognised the root of the problem as lying in the scarce availability and poor management of money and resolved to identify a system that would allow people to gain more control over their finances.

By 2018, credit unions affiliated to the Irish League of Credit Unions have €13.4bn in savings, with loans of almost €4.5bn. But figures only tell part of the story. Let’s give credit where it’s most due….to the thousands of Irish men and women whose achievements in their own communities could never be recorded in a balance sheet.

Timeline of the Development of Credit Unions in Ireland



Key Development

  • The 3 founder members (Nora Herlihy, Seán Forde and Séamus MacEoin) join and meet at the Dublin Central Co-Operative Society. They explore and research the concept of Credit Unions in Ireland
  • Daonscoil held in Skerries, Co. Dublin
  • Formation of CUES (Credit Union Extension Service) which became the spearhead of the Credit Union movement in Ireland
  • First Community based Credit Union established in Ireland. Donore Credit Union, Dublin 8
  • Clones Credit Union established, Co. Monaghan
  • First Credit Union in Munster established in Ballyphehane, Co. Cork
  • First Credit Union in Northern Ireland established in Derry, Co. Derry
  • Civil Service Credit Union established in Dublin
  • Credit Union League of Ireland is established with membership of the first five credit unions in Ireland
  • Credit Union Act was signed into law
  • Development and expansion of the Credit Union Movement on the island of Ireland and support of fledging credit union movements around the developing world
  • League becomes the agent of CUNA Mutual Insurance in Ireland and Europe for the provision of life savings insurance for credit unions
  • At a special rules convention in 1972, the Credit Union League of Irleand becomes the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) to better reflect that the League was comprised of affiliated individual and autonomous credit unions
  • Establishment of ECCU Assurance Company Limited to provide insurance services to Irish credit unions
  • Establishment of The ILCU Foundation to support fledging credit union movements around the developing world
  • 1985 Order in Northern Ireland signed into law
  • Commencement of Savings Protection Scheme
  • Gus Murray elected as the first Irish President of WOCCU (World Council of Credit Unions)
  • Hosting of World Credit Union Conference, Cork
  • Signing of the 1997 Credit Union Act
  • €750m lent out by Irish Credit Unions on Social Finance
  • Hosting of World Credit Union Conference, Dublin
  • Motion passed at ILCU AGM to establish a credit union National Advertising Campaign (NAC)
  • 50th anniversary of the foundation of the first credit unions in Ireland. 521 credit unions on the island of Ireland affiliated to the ILCU with 2.9m members
  • Commission on Credit Unions established (June 2011)
  • Final report of the Commission on Credit Unions is published
  • Credit Union and Cooperation with Overseas Regulators Act 2012 (CUCORA Act) passed into law
  • Transfer of regulation of Northern Ireland credit unions from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment NI to the Financial Services Authority (FSA)
  • Credit Union Restructuring Board (ReBo) established to facilitate credit union restructuring          
  • CUSOP (Credit Union Service Organisation for Payments) established to provide payments services to the credit union movement on a not-for-profit basis
  • The Financial Services Authority is replaced by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).  Credit unions in Northern Ireland are now regulated by both the PRA and FCA and authorised by the PRA
  • The ILCU establishes the Credit Union Compliance Centre (CUCC) to provide supports to credit unions in the areas of compliance. The service is later expanded to include a risk advisory service
  • Internal Audit Services Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the ILCU, is established to provide outsourced internal audit services to credit unions
  • Final sections of the CUCORA Act come into effect
  • Central Bank prescribes substantial new Regulations for credit unions
  • New PRA Credit Union Rulebook and updated FCA Credit Union Sourcebook comes into force (February 2016)
  • WOCCU Annual Conference held in Belfast with over 1,700 delegates from 50 countries in attendance
  • New Credit Unions and Co-Operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2016 amending the Credit Unions (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (as amended)
  • Home Loan Project established by ILCU to set up a Credit Union Services Organisation (CUSO) to assist Credit Unions in the provision of mortgages
  • ReBo is wound down, having been involved in 82 transfer of engagement projects
  • Donore Credit Union Ltd. celebrates its 60th anniversary
  • Transfer of the registration function for Northern Ireland credit unions from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment NI to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
  • Announcement of removal of the lending maturity limits in ROI, which cap the perecentage of CU lending over 5 and 10 years. This is replaced by new concentration limits, on a tiered basis, for home mortgage and business loans (effective Jan 2020).
  • Credit unions win the CXi Ireland Customer Experience Award for the fifth consecutive year.
  • Credit unions in ROI named as 'essential retail outlets' as the country grapples with the impacts of Covid-19. NI credit unions also on hand to support members at this challenging time.
  • John Hume, one of the driving forces for the establishment of the credit union movement in Ireland, passes away. John was a founding member of Derry CU and in 1964, become the youngest ever President of the ILCU.