One year on

Today marks the first anniversary of the Presbyterian Mutual Society going into administration. Some of us thought that the situation would have been resolved a long time ago, and we are grateful to the Newsletter for its feature on the crisis.th1_1711200933pms-logo2

Back in June, we were full of hope. At that stage, it had taken seven months of lobbying and letter-writing to get the attention of the Prime Minister, and to engage the government in the process of addressing the issues affecting so many PMS savers. We thought then that the train was beginning to roll and that it would take us quickly towards a solution. But five months later, we are still waiting. The frustration is immense and while many savers are struggling on. There is real pain and much anxiety in almost every congregation. During my travels around the church in the past six months, many people have told me their stories, and some of them have been heart-breaking. Yet many, in spite of their hardship, have remained calm and patient.

While the Prime Minister’s Working Group was set up in June, it really didn’t get going properly until September, the month in which we had been promised a draft report. At times the noises have been encouraging. It was clear from the outset, if a disastrous second vote by was to be avoided, that the involvement of the Treasury and other financial institutions in any proposed solution was necessary. As we write, we are assured that this route is being fully explored and we are told that a number of banks are engaged in discussions. For that, we are thankful and hopeful, but it seems to be a very slow process. If rescue plans for savers with such financial bodies as the Dunfermline Building Society could apparently be put together in a weekend, why are we having to wait so long?

One of the benefits of the devolved administration at Stormont is that we have been able to meet directly with officials and ministers involved in the decision-making process. Everyone we have spoken to has been aware of the integrity of our case, and has been supportive. As well as meeting Northern Ireland Ministers, the church has been constantly active in verbal and written submissions to the Government, in correspondence and in meetings with the Secretary of State.

What the decision-makers in both Stormont and Westminster need to realise is that concern about the PMS situation stretches far wider than its 9,500 savers. Every member of every congregation who has contributed to funds which have been deposited with the PMS is anxious about this crisis and seeks a positive outcome. During the most difficult and dark days of our recent history, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has provided stability and cohesion. Failure to resolve this crisis successfully will create waves and ripples that will have a widespread negative impact. Building confidence in this community requires that the PMS situation be resolved positively and quickly.

5 Replies to “One year on”

  1. At the time, I was concerned that a different approach was beng taken in relation to the PMS when viewed against the Northern Rock etc and I am still of this view.

    The Prime Minister’s decision to set up a working group always smacked of “kicking the issue into touch” and again I still remain of that view.

    The failure to progress the issue concerns me even more, when one looks at the current political situation. Its for that reason that I genuinely hope and pray the PMS does not become part of some “deal”.

    The case for the mutual stands on its own merit and sadly had there been the will a solution would have been found by now – but for all the kind words and platitudes from our Assembly and Westminster one year on the funds are still frozen and no clear path has been identified.

  2. Excellent article Stafford. No one can question the priority that you and your predecessor, Dr Patton, have given to this urgent matter. There is little doubt that if the PMS was located in an area of the UK where Labour had marginal Westminster seats, then it would have been sorted in days just like The Dunfermline Building Society and Northern Rock. Let’s hope our local politicians will be able to work together to achieve a satisfactory outcome, in the next few months, to this situation that has caused much pain to many PCI members. While there is truth in the fact that members withdrawing their monies resulted in the Society being placed in administration, what really was the downfall of the Society, in my opinion as a former Bank Manager, was the reckless lending from the Directors that resulted in staggering amounts of capital being advanced to property developers and the fact that savers were largely unaware that they were in effect buying shares in what was really a speculative commercial property fund. This whole episode has been most regrettable for our church, but we hope it will soon be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

  3. The moderator provides just another version of the same mush we’ve been hearing from the church leadership for months. Patronising comments about how calm and patient we are…oh, how noble are the savers, according to our leader. We don’t need that kind of guff. Unless he has something useful or new to add, he should keep his counsel. Here’s a suggestion about how he might help out just a little bit: Some time ago, the PCI’s own little task force apparently provided a report to the prime minister’s working group, dealing with the PMS debacle. But that report was confidential!! So we savers have no idea of what the PCI was telling the prime minister–ostensibly on our behalf. So tell us now, Mr. Moderator: What was the reason for keeping that report confidential? We’ve had enough of delays, secrecy, betrayal, half-truths and lies from several directions. How about some truth and transparency?

  4. Beware, a solution is obviously on the cards, clearly an institution is going to buy over the PMS, the Government will undoubtedly guarantee the purchase in some way – but will not underwrite it or provide any funds. The savers/investors will be offered an arrangement say 50 pence in the pound or 60, whatever and our politicians will shout “hurrah sorted!”

    The reality will be that both provincial and national Governments will have actually done little, there will be no tax payers bail out, those at fault – not least DETI who was supposed to be regulating the PMS – will get away in the smoke and the savers will be told “just be thankful you got some of your money back”. After a bit the “success” will appear on the party manifestos just in time for a Westminster election!

    or am I being just a little cynical?

  5. The Dunfermaline Building Society and Northern Rock had their difficulties sorted out over a weekend in one case and several weeks in the second. It seems the savers of the PMS have to be very very very patient to the extent that they endure hardship, have sleepless nights and listen to platitudes from local politicans and our national parliamentary leaders. We know that God provides, he is loving and generous so why cant the current committee looking into the PMS do as he would want them to do .To be christlike, generous and loving. We are SAVERS not INVESTORS! Thank you Mr Brown for creating our problem and then being selective in your guarantees to SAVERS. Stafford it’s time to show leadership, servanthood and going the extra mile.

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