Video: ‘Hands off Newbridge Credit Union’, is message from public meeting

Paula Campbel

Reporter:

Paula Campbel

‘Hands off Newbridge Credit Union’ was the message sent to the Central Bank and to Naas Credit Union on Wednesday evening from the Newbridge CU Action Group.

They held a second public meeting Ryston Sports and Social Club last night, following their first meeting last week.

Around 400 members out of 37,000 attended the meeting in the fight to retain Newbridge Credit Union in the town and in the building owned by the members.

Local campaigner Willie Crowley, who chaired the meeting, praised the courage and understanding of the staff in the face of “terrible adversity” while hitting out at the new regime in place at Newbridge CU since the appointment of a special manager by the Central Bank 18 months ago.

He spoke of a “master plan” by the Central Bank to put in place a cashless society by 2017 when credit unions will have to adopt electronic banking. He claimed that Newbridge CU is the “template for the whole country”. He slammed the regulators’ impostion of Grant Thornton as auditor for Newbridge Credit Union in 2009, 2010 and 2011, against the “expressed wishes of the members” in 2010 and at a cost of €309,000, paid for by Newbridge CU,

“Since March 2009 Newbridge, like many other credit unions, had their loans restricted to €50,000 max,” he said.

“We were submitted to a Stazi-type regime, gagging orders, the works. The Central Bank has not reassured the 40 staff of Newbridge that their jobs are safe, or in Naas Credit Union. We will not lose control, we will not accept the merger, we will not have our building sold from under us and we will protect our staff.”

Former Board of Directors member Breda Reid, who resigned last January, urged members “to make their voices heard” and to help save the future of the credit union” in a letter posted online last week. She received a round of applause from those in attendance for her letter.

“I just couldn’t let this happen in my watch,” she said. “They [The Central Bank] wouldn’t have let you know until December [about the proposed merger with Naas Credit Union] and it would have been too late.”

She then read out a letter from an unamed member of Newbridge Credit Union to Naas Credit Union, appealing for members in Naas to oppose the merger. The letter alleged that Naas CU will “be paid €46 million to take over Newbridge”, if the merger goes ahead. It further alleged that the Newbridge CU building, which was paid for by its members, has been sold to the Department of Social Welfare because “Naas does not want it”.

A show of hands gave the action group authorisaton to consult with a team of solictors and senior legal counsel for advice on what action is needed to go to the High Court.

Kildare South Fine Gael Deputy Martin Heydon, who was in the audience, advised the meeting that the building has to be advertised before it can be sold.

“I want answers on the building,” he said. He added that recent remarks by the Registrar of Credit Unions on the future of Newbridge CU has left more questions than answers.

“We need full facts - we have been told tens of millions of taxpayers money will be put in Newbridge Credit Union. Are they saying that a lot of people in Newbridge are not repaying their loans? If things are as bad as they are saying how was this not raised with the regulator long before the appointment of the Special Manager?”

Deputy Sean O’Fearghail said the merger with Naas sent the message that Newbridge is not “to be trusted as a community in our own town, without somebody supervising us from outside”.

Two buses will leave Newbridge tomorrow (Friday) to march on the Central Bank in protest. The buses will stop on the way home in Naas where protestors are scheduled to carry out a silent protest outside Naas Credit Union offices on Main Street.