Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice was critical of the apparent ‘Big Brother’ approach taken by the Central Bank in relation to Credit Unions following the publication of a recent report.

Speaking on the matter, the Roscommon-Galway TD said: “Over the last week we have seen the report from the Central Bank indicate that the number of Credit Unions has fallen from 406 in 2011 to 241 this year as well as the fact that they continue to face financial challenges.

“Well lets be very clear about this, the Central Bank has crucified Credit Unions over the last number of years.

“I know of an incident where a Credit Union, that was functioning perfectly well and was allowed a certain threshold for lending, got correspondence from the Central Bank that they would like the board to consider reducing this lending threshold.

“When the board decided at the given time not to reduce it because it is a very solvent Credit Union, they were basically told by ‘Big Brother’ that if they didn’t reduce it there would be repercussions.

“Then the Central Bank has the audacity to come along and tell people how Credit Unions are going to find it hard to survive. There seems to be a Central Bank and Government policy that if you don’t close it one way, you can close it in another way.

“And the big brother attitude is there at the moment. Go back to the crash in this country, where the scaremongering from Central Bank and the Department of Finance stated that we needed to put €250 million aside.

“How much have Credit Unions cost this country? Unlike the banks, they haven’t cost anything – as first of all they were able to finance things themselves and secondly the money accumulated was used to improve the services available at Credit Unions.

“The Central Bank and this Government seem intent on forcing the closures of the smaller Credit Unions, as these operations cannot avail of the same terms offered to banks when it comes to lending regulations.

“The Central Bank should be promoting Credit Unions in rural Ireland where they have allowed bigger banks to abscond and leave many rural towns without any banking facilities – or a reduced service.

“But instead of that, they are pushing in the opposite direction. It is regrettable to say that both Government policy and the Central Bank’s stance appears to be to try and drive more financial institutions out of towns in rural Ireland.

“Representatives of the Credit Unions need to stand up and call this out as well. In my view, the big brother attitude being implemented by the Central Bank is shameful – especially given the impact it is having in rural Ireland,” Fitzmaurice concluded.

Michael Fitzmaurice – 0861914565

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