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Church to discuss investors help

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland called its first special assembly in 32 years to discuss proposals to help investors who lost millions when the Presbyterian Mutual Society (PMS) went under.

The meeting of the church's 1,200-strong decision making panel will examine a rescue package tabled by the Stormont Executive which would see the 10,000 members of the Northern Ireland-based society caught up in the crisis get the majority of their cash back.

Under the terms of the bailout, the Executive, the UK Treasury and the Presbyterian Church would all stump up funds to help those hit when the PMS collapsed at the height of the financial crisis 18 months ago.

The church's decision to hold the special sitting came as Stormont Finance Minister Sammy Wilson met with Treasury officials in London to press them to give the necessary approval for the deal.

Presbyterian Moderator Dr Stafford Carson has asked members of the representative body to meet at the church's headquarters in Belfast in April.

He said the agenda would consider "the present situation for savers in the Presbyterian Mutual Society and to respond to a recent initiative of the Northern Ireland Executive".

He added: "On Monday the First Minister (Peter Robinson) and deputy First Minister (Martin McGuinness) announced that they had formulated proposals to resolve the PMS crisis which they intended to submit to both the Prime Minister and Treasury.

"The church recognises the substantial financial commitment of both the Treasury and the Northern Ireland Executive in this process and appreciates all that has been done by executive ministers, local politicians and their officials to reach this point.

"We understand that part of these proposals will involve a financial contribution from the Presbyterian Church. In order to expedite the process we have called this special meeting of the General Assembly, whose decision would be necessary to raise any funds."

Normally the Presbyterian Church's General Assembly meets just once a year in June, but a mechanism exists to call a special meeting when major decisions need to be made urgently.

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