Credit unions in Ireland today vary dramatically in size, membership and in the range of services they offer. However, they all share a basic philosophy and set of principles, which are also shared with the credit union movement worldwide.

Credit unions originated in the 19th century, when the concepts and ideas central to credit unions were developed in countries such as the UK by Robert Owen, in Germany by Herman Schulze-Delitzsch and in North America by Alphonse Desjardin. The credit union movement grew quickly throughout America and Canada and paved the way for the rest of the world to follow.

In Ireland the first credit union was founded in 1958, by schoolteacher Nora Herlihy and her colleagues on Donore Avenue in Dublin. Through contact with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) in America, the first of many credit unions in Ireland was founded.

The Irish credit union movement has achieved one of the highest membership penetrations of all countries in the world, with over 50% of the Irish population now holding membership.