Tensions run high at crisis meeting of Newbridge Credit Union members

Paula Campbel

Reporter:

Paula Campbel

Tensions ran high at a public meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the future of Newbridge Credit Union, amid speculation of a merger with Naas Credit Union.

Outraged members at Ryston Sports and Social Club sought answers to questions which quite simply were not forthcoming as those in the know are either gagged, in the case of the Board of Directors, or were a no show as in the case of the Credit Union’s Central Bank-appointed special manager Luke Charleton of Ernst & Young..

The 600 or so who turned up filled the sports hall looking for answers about the future of their credit union which has been run by special manager Luke Charleton since January 2012.

Members of Newbridge Credit Union agreed on the night to save their organisation from merger and or closure at any cost.

The meeting, which was chaired by local campaigner Willie Crowley, was organised to address members concerns’ over the future of the financial institution in the town.

“Is a merger with Naas on the cards?” asked Willie Crowley, addressing the meeting. “Is it a done deal? Is the building sold? We cannot get a definitive answer. Our credit union directors have been issued with a gagging order and have not been able to give any answers. Were there big loans to four or five property lenders? 90 percent of the loan book is good, which was made up of small loans. There were some larger loans. The credit union was cash rich and you can’t have members’ money sitting there doing nothing, so of course they advanced larger loans. A lot of the larger loans are performing. Joe Bloggs did not get three million as a result of a conversation with someone in the credit union.”

Frustrations ran high over the lack of transparent information about the future of the struggling financial institution, some of which was firmly directed at Kildare South Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon, who stood at the back of the hall.

Deputy Heydon, whose constituency office is next door to the credit union, informed the meeting that this is one of his “biggest issues” and that he has spoken to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the matter.

“I will reserve judgement on whether or not the special manager was a mistake until he is gone, when we have all the facts and figures,” he said.

“We need to retain the credit union in Newbridge in the building that it is in at present.”

Shouts of “what did Enda Kenny say?” were heard from the crowd alongside some boos, while one member stood up and said what was needed was “the truth” and not “bull sh*t”. There was talk of trying to force an EGM, while one member put the ball back firmly in the court of the

Board of Directors.

“It is the members who appointed the Directors,” he said. “They represent you and while they have been gagged nothing stops them from listening to the frustration of the members.”

The issue of the exorbitant fees’ of up to €2m paid to Ernst & Young was also rehashed alongside the extension of the special manager’s contract until next December. There was also several calls for more transparency within the ranks and from the Central Bank.

By the end of the meeting, a task force of experts was set up from members present on the night, including Deputy Heydon, who also volunteered to pool resources and “fight for the credit union for the people in Newbridge”