The Credit Union movement in Londonderry lent out £10m at Christmas, according to stalwart of the people’s bank in the city, Uel Adair.
Mr Adair said most of the money was pumped back into the local economy.
He made the revelation at a Stormont Investment Committee briefing last month, which addressed a number of possible changes to rules governing the movement.
Mr Adair - who has been associated with the Credit Union for 40 years - told the Committee how its ethos is to deliver a service to the most vulnerable and this is normally exemplified at Christmas time.
“I believe passionately in this - that you cannot go away from the ethos of the credit union movement from when it was first set up, which was to deliver a service to the most vulnerable in our society and to allow people to have the dignity to spend cash as opposed to going to other people,” Mr Adair told the Committee.
“It used to be that they went to clubs or catalogues, and all the money went out of Northern Ireland. There was an example in the credit union movement last year. The credit union movement in Derry lent out in excess of £10 million just for Christmas, and that was ploughed back into the local economy. Those are the figures.”
He said credit unions provide affordable credit for working class communities, which elsewhere are often preyed upon by ruthless pay day lenders.
“Moneylenders are getting benefits because they offer the facility of going to your house. Some moneylenders will go to the house and bring their hard men with them and, if you do not pay, they will take it out on your nose.
“I do not know whether you are aware of an incident in Limerick not very long ago. Moneylenders were standing outside the credit union. Women had their family allowance books, went into the credit union and lifted their money, came out and handed it to somebody else. We do not want that situation at all, gentlemen,” he said.
He told the Committee: “The day we move away from the ethos of the credit union we will have lost the credit union movement.”