No matter how loudly they protest, moneylenders are an affliction tolerated because banning the “business” would just drive it underground and probably impose further hardship on those unfortunate enough to have to rely on one of the 39 “businesses” approved by the Central Bank.
One, according to Kieran Stafford, national director of St Vincent de Paul, legally charges 187% in interest.
“This can go over 200%... so if you borrow €500 that will cost you €780 over a year. If you went to your local credit union it would only cost €544.”
This seems to give an entirely new complexion to the idea of kicking a man when he is down.
Mr Stafford also warns that some parents and grandparents go hungry so they can repay money borrowed to buy Christmas presents.
Low-income and working people make up the great majority of the 350,000 people who turn to these lenders of last resort “for big events like Communions, Confirmations, a birthday and then Christmas”.
How else could it be in a society where Christmas has become a grand festival of consumerism, where programmes like the Late Late Toy Show put tremendous pressure on already struggling families?
The St Vincent de Paul, one of this country’s great organisations, also pointed to the pressure created by rents that bare no relationship to a family’s ability to earn or pay.
Moneylending is yet another symptom of how inequality has become such a crushing reality in our world.