Northern Ireland news

Role of credit unions in communities in NI explored in new BBC TV series

Loan officers Charles Allen and Shannon Gordon feature in The Borrowers

THE role of the credit unions in communities in Northern Ireland is explored in a new television series.

With more financial services moving online and many bank branches closing their doors across rural towns in the north, the programme 'The Borrowers' looks at the personal stories of members and loan officers of the Credit Union.

With almost 140 branches across the north, it supports local businesses and everyday savers alike.

Starting tonight on BBC One Northern Ireland, the three-part series was filmed in credit union loan offices across Northern Ireland, including Ballymena Causeway and Warrenpoint, Burn and Rostrevor, with fixed cameras used to observe loan officers and members.

The programme makers said: "In rural communities the credit union is more than just a money lender to local businesses and it is not always large amounts of money that members need.

"This compelling series also reveals the personal stories of those who need a small cash injection to help with the everyday cost of living and to make it to the end of the month."

In the first episode, the cameras follow Shannon Gordon and Charles Allen, who work in the Ballymena loan office.

At 24, Ms Gordon is one of the youngest loan officers in the north and meets a local personal trainer and former body builder who wants a loan to extend his gym.

The episode also sees Mr Allen interview a footballer team-mate, who is hoping to succeed in his loan application to enable him to pay for laser eye surgery.

In Warrenpoint, loan officer Louise White is left in good spirits when local entrepreneur Brendan Carty seeks additional cash to expand his distillery business in the Mourne Mountains.

Ms White tells the programme: "The credit union is the heart of the community, when you have been there 16 years, you really know the members coming into you.

"It's great to support local business, the credit union is there to support local business, to help them whenever they can."

Other episodes will see Ms Gordon lend a listening ear to a former Northern Ireland ladies football coach, who looks forward to seeing a friendly face when he visits the Credit Union, while loan officer Mark O'Gorman in Warrenpoint meets a woman who has left her teaching career behind to pursue a dream of becoming a full-time artist and explains why a small loan would help to diversify her business offering.

The Borrowers is on BBC One NI tonight at 10.35pm.

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