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The Irish Credit Union Movement

The credit union movement is built on an ethos of mutuality, volunteerism, self-help and not- for-profit philosophy. Recognising the success and the difference that the Irish Credit Union movement has and continues to make on the island of Ireland, the work of the Foundation is supported and made possible by the generous donations from the Irish Credit Union movement.

The Irish Credit Union movement was founded in the 1950s, thanks to the efforts of 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 1950s, 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. 

A lot of research and work was undertaken to establish a ‘cooperative’ system. Nora Herlihy travelled to America to learn more about the credit union model, and in Both the American and Canadian credit union movements provided support and advice to the pioneers who established the Irish credit union movement in the late 1950s.

The first credit union, Donore Credit Union, was set up in 1958, by the Byrne sisters, and this was followed soon after by the establishment of Clones Credit Union in 1959. A number of community credit unions were then established throughout the island of Ireland.

In 1960s Irish League of Credit Unions was established by five credit unions, with the aim of providing representation, leadership, co-operation, support and development for credit unions in both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The ILCU is the largest representative body for credit unions on the island of Ireland. Today, across the island of Ireland there are credit unions in almost 500 locations, serving towns and villages and ensuring communities have access to ethical and affordable financial services. 

The Foundation are thankful to the ILCU for the support and expertise provided to us on a continuous basis.

Read the history of How it Started and for more information visit www.creditunion.ie