Media Release: 10 October 2013

The credit union first set The Undertones on their way to stardom, and is rated by John Hume as one of his proudest achievements – and this week The Irish League of Credit Unions will be investing in Derry/Londonderry City of Culture with a major conference.

The ILCU Chapter Officers’ & Insurance Forum to be held at the City Hotel on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 October will bring together hundreds of representatives of credit unions from across Ireland.  Under the theme ‘Working Together For Members’, delegates will explore key issues impacting the lives of almost 3 million members across Ireland North and South, with economist and commentator David McWilliams providing his take on where the British and Irish economies are currently headed.

About the event, David McWilliams says; "I am looking forward to being in Derry not only to share in the city’s amazing year, but also to reinforce the increasing relevance and importance of credit unions in economies North and South.  I will also outline my take on where the British and Irish economies are currently headed, and will give my assessment of the economic and social importance of culture to us all both socially and financially." 

Looking forward to the conference, taking place in a city where roughly two thirds of the population are already members of credit unions, Derry woman Rosemary O’Doherty, Director of the Irish League of Credit Unions, spoke of the significance of this weekend’s conference.  She said, “When the first credit union in Northern Ireland was founded in 1960 in Derry, it was almost impossible for the ordinary person to obtain affordable credit to help them fund their personal and family development.  A lot may have changed since then, but it seems that, for many people today, that is once again the case and there are few families who aren’t feeling the financial pressures of recession.   Against that backdrop of a tough economic climate and at a time when other financial institutions may have lost some of their lustre for the public, the credit union ethos is both relevant and attractive.   

"Over the decades we have remained true to the concept of mutuality, providing essential financial services to everyone regardless of their class, creed or income level.  Because each credit union is run by its own members, solely for members’ benefit, we are building social capital within our communities." 

"We believe that we are on the threshold of major growth as we continue to build membership and respond to the demands of existing members to expand and develop credit union services still further.  This weekend’s conference will focus on that future potential and will give us all another important opportunity to listen and exchange views with those who will actually shape the future shape and services of the credit union movement in this decade and beyond."

Launching the Derry-based 2013 conclave of credit union leaders, Billy Doherty from The Undertones shared the band’s story, and how the credit union was instrumental in supporting them when they first got together. 

Drummer Billy Doherty recalls, “With all up and coming bands one of the most challenging things is how they can afford to buy musical equipment. This was certainly the case for The Undertones. We all came from modest backgrounds, with no "disposable income" and there was certainly no easy money about to buy band equipment.  Thankfully, we had arguably one of best financial institutions on the planet to depend on, and for us that was Derry Credit Union. 

"In 1978, Michael Bradley, our bass player secured a loan from the credit union to buy me my first brand new professional drum kit. We got a loan of £400, and with the money that we earned from our weekly shows in the Casbah, a local venue in Derry, we managed to pay back the loan.  We may have had Terri Hooley, founder of Good Vibrations, the record label that produced the Teenage Kick EP and John Peel, the BBC Radio One DJ who had Teenage Kicks as his all time favourite record; but if it weren’t for the help of Derry Credit Union to financially support The Undertones during our early days we would certainly have found life much tougher.  Like thousands of people from the town we had the help of a local, dependable financial cooperative that supported the community and I’m so grateful to take advantage of the wonderful service that Derry Credit Union provided."

The impact of the credit union movement on the city is fondly remembered by John Hume too.  Looking back to his role, he says, “Of all the things I’ve been doing it’s the thing I’m proudest of because no movement has done more good for the people of Ireland, North and South, than the credit union movement.” 

Rosemary says, “We are all justifiably proud of our firm foundations but, as this weekend’s conference will illustrate, we are focused on the future.  The respect in which we are held, coupled with our strong community ethos and professionalism add up to a fantastic springboard for us and the communities we serve.” 

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