Kilkerrin native swung into Garbally through the support of his USA based Aunts in 1957 – little did he think when he stepped down recently from the Board of Directors of the BCU he would have given over three decades of service to the Irish Credit Union Movement!
John McLoughlin, a long time serving Director and former Chair and Vice Chair of the Ballinasloe Credit Union reflects on over three decades of engagement since he was a Community Psychiatric Nurse in Castlereagh Hospital and founded with his wife Maura the Castlereagh Branch in 1988.
“twas one of the last in the country and what drove us to set it up was the complete unavailability of credit for ordinary working people at the time “ explains the sprightly John.
The Kilkerrin small famer’s son met the UK trained nurse Maura when he was a student nurse in St. Brigid’s in the early sixties. They got married in 1967 and set up home in Castlereagh – Maura had to give up career with the marriage ban, but returned to nursing after the family grew up when they came back to live in town.
A family of four duly emerged - Orla – who is a nurse in Kilkenny, Fiona who is a leading County Councillor in Kildare, Niamh who is the Business Lead with Medtronic in Galway and youngest Shane who works with the AIB in Corofin.
“Liam Kelly was a huge positive influence on me as young student nurse, we never lost touch and when we set up in Castlereagh he was there every step of the way helping us . So when I returned as a Community Nurse to the Ballinasloe area in the mid-90s he was mad keen to co – opt me as a Director to the local Credit Union, ” explains John.
Looking back on the growth and development of the Credit Union he is well impressed “that we have come a long way from just quietly sorting out the wife with the price of washing machine – to doing all the windows of a house, the bathroom, the roof, the car, the business expansion – the kids to college and even now a mortgage! “
He was Chair during the millennium and the local branch had recently employed Noel Madden as their first full time Administrator and moved to their Main St, premises from River St.
“We had an unprecedented spell of growth during that time maybe from 10,000 members accounts to 18,000 all down to the hard work of Noel, the board , our new visibility and the new attitude of the Irish people to money and credit “ states John.
He strongly believes that for all its faults the Celtic Tiger era got Irish people to be more open about their finances. “ No one in the 70s, 80s or 90s wanted anyone else to know that you had borrowed for a car, bailer or even a twin tub and folks were nervous of a having a local committee from your area knowing how much you were repaying each week but that all fell by the wayside from 2003 onwards “, he recalls.
His fondest memory though is not just of helping individuals but the umpteen community organisations that the Credit Union helped with sponsorship, grants and long terms loans to realise their ambition for facilities or social enterprise . “ Since the turn of the century we were able to assist so many organisations put in place their finances to drawn down grant aid and deliver for the community, when the high street banks just did not want to know “, explains John.
For him the overriding ethos of the movement was one of “ come and see us , and talk to us the minute you have an issue or problem with your repayments”.
He knows that people think being on the board is a huge financial and time drain “ Look at it , this system was always about ordinary people in society being trained and supervised to manage competently the affairs of a lending cooperative – you could be a road sweeper or a stockbroker -you were offered the same programmes and support to help manage your members money “ he states.
9 -10 hours a week on average is all that it should take to be a Board member including your few hours on working groups or sub – committees.
Frustratingly for John - the fussiness of the Central Bank Regulations since the financial collapse and the use of the market place language have served somewhat to alienate the next generation of local savers and borrowers.
“ What should I care now – with 15 grandchildren while trying to reduce a band Golf handicap and help out with Cancer Care Centre in Main St “ he laughs !
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