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KILLARNEY, Ireland – Newly elected World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Chairmen Gerry Foley, sat down with Credit Union Times in the Great Southern Hotel to discuss his credit union involvement past, present and future. Speaking with a thick brogue, Foley is known for his easy smile, warm touch, ability to remember names and a “grand” sense of humor. But humor does not lessen his devotion to credit unions. Foley was one of five children born to a farming family. “Not cattle,” he pointed out, but “potatoes, tomatoes, cauliflower.” They did have a horse and Foley admits, if necessary, he could still drive a tractor. His mother was a cook for a convent. Foley went to Delascele College and about the same time his father lost the family farm. The young man abandoned his farming career to become a bread delivery man. Always active in his small community, his involvement with credit unions was an “accident,” he admitted. He happened into a meeting about setting up a credit union in 1970. He found himself on a study committee, without much knowledge of what he was about to study. However, that night marked the first step in a life-long road of credit union activity. Foley helped form the Rush Credit Union which included an active training program. Foley admits that the training wasn’t as intensive as today, but the issues were simpler. He mentioned that Kathleen Matthews was one of his trainers. Matthews, who boasts more than “four score years,” was not only one of the early pioneers in the Irish credit union movement, she was honored by the World Council of Credit Unions at the Killarney meeting. In discussing Matthews, Foley revealed a characteristic that was constant through out the interview. Rather than taking credit for any of his accomplishments, he was quick to say he was helped by this person or that person. Rush Credit Union is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary. It has 8,500 members and is about to implement a major three-year growth plan that is designed to increase membership to 35,000. Because of people moving to the area from Dublin as part of the Celtic Tiger economic success story, Foley considered the target reachable. Foley also said it was an “accident” that he became involved in the Irish League of Credit Union (ILCU) politics. He had “stood” for a local national post and lost when someone suggested he run for the ILCUs supervisory committee. “I didn’t sign the papers right,” he admitted, but then in the next election the paperwork was corrected. He lost by one vote. However, when immediately after an ILCU annual general meeting a member resigned, Foley was appointed to the post. He attributed it to the fact he had been through the election process. From then on Foley was successful and victory from several other elections was always by a large margin. Foley was ILCU’s President from 1989-1991. In between credit union activities and a full time job, Foley found time to earn a degree in contract law. His involvement with WOCCU was another “accident” through one of his mentors and friends, Gus Murray. Although Murray died in 1993, Foley still feels the loss. In 1995 he became part of WOCCUs executive committee. His other credits include being a Development Educator, class of 1990 and president of Republic of Ireland Public Health Services. In his various roles, including that of Vice Chairman of WOCCU, Foley has travelled to Madison, Wis., Canada, Australia, Korea, Cameroon and South Africa, among other places. His travels have helped prepare him for the role he has just assumed. Foley asked that his family be mentioned in the story, because he believes he could not have achieved his goals without his wife Patricia, firmly behind him. He showed equal pride when he mentioned his four children, Keith, Lauren, Justin and Deborah. “Deborah is a credit union manager,” he said. There was no doubt by the smile, that her being a second generation credit union person is a source of great pleasure to her father. What Foley hopes to accomplish in his term of office is the continuing spread of credit unions throughout the world. He wants to make sure that credit unions everywhere are “safe and sound.” If the hard work he has done for credit unions in the past is any indication of the future, the new WOCCU chairman will be an extremely busy man. At the end of the interview Foley hurried to the closing session of the WOCCU Conference and then was off to plan his itinerary for the months to come with WOCCO CEO Arthur Arnold. -

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