From the beginning...
The modern Credit Union movement traces its origins to Germany and to Friedrich Willhelm Raiffeisen, the Mayor of a small town in southern Germany, who in 1849 formed societies, which later evolved in to Credit Unions. The purpose of these Credit Unions were to enable people to help themselves in relieving debt and poverty.
A Credit Union is a democratic, financial co-operative owned and controlled by its own members. Each Credit Union is run only to benefit its members, all of whom have something in common - the common bond.
The Irish credit union movement was founded as a result of the efforts of three dynamic, pioneering and entrepreneurial people, namely Nora Herlihy, from Ballydesmond, a teacher based in Dublin; Sean Forde, an employee of Peter Kennedy Bakers, Dublin; and Séamus P. MacEoin, from Kilkenny, a Civil Servant working in Dublin.
In Dublin in the 1950's, 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 scare availability and poor management of money and resolved to identify a system that would allow people to gain more control over their finances.
Since then, the Credit Union philosophy of mutual self-help has proved very popular, and there are just under 500 Credit Unions affiliated to the Irish league of Credit Unions throughout the country. In Ireland nearly 3 million members have recognized the value of credit unions, and have savings approaching several billion euros with their credit unions. There are thousands employed in the sector and many more thousands are volunteers involved in the movement.