CREDIT Unions have been awarded €3.7million by the courts against defaulting members in the past four months.
Figures for the last third of 2011 showed a steady increase in the number of judgments granted as credit unions across the country desperately try to balance their books.
Of 213 judgments between September and December awarded against members of credit unions in Ireland, one credit union was forced to take an astonishing 30 cases against defaulters and at one branch alone, the court ordered a member to pay back more than €400,000.
In September, there were 40 judgments granted around the country against the worst cases of debt arrears. But by November this figure had leapt to 77.
The most prolific litigator was Derg Credit Union in Co. Clare, which had no fewer than 30 judgments granted.
The sums involved ranged from a mere €283 to as high as €37,000, although the amounts being sought were generally around €12,000. The total came to €372,257.
More than 30 credit unions were forced to take legal action, pointing to a growing debt problem. The figures come just days after the High Court granted a request by the Central Bank to have a special manager appointed to Newbridge Credit Union.
Ernst & Young’s Luke Charleton has been brought in to deal with growing concerns over what, with €190million assets, is the country’s third-largest credit union.
One of the most alarming judgments granted over the four months was for €405,014 against a member of the St Raphael’s Garda Credit Union Ltd, in Dublin.
Over two days in November, the same credit union was granted judgments totalling €563,376.
The next highest order, for €129,179, was granted to Portlaoise Credit Union against a spa manager in the town.
A spokesman for the Irish League of Credit Unions said last night: ‘All credit unions encourage members who are having difficulty in repaying loans to contact the credit union at the earliest possible stage to discuss how the issues can be resolved through agreement.
‘We must ensure that monies outstanding are paid back in full, as the money belongs to other members.’