Relief for savers in Presbyterian Mutual Society
Savers who deposited money in the Presbyterian Mutual Society have spoken of their relief after their investments were returned.
The first cheques arrived in the post yesterday morning, bringing an end to the near three-year wait for those who had money tied up in the society.
Almost 10,000 investors were affected when the PMS was forced into administration in November 2008 after a run on its funds.
Many people had committed their life savings to the society and had been unable to access their money.
However, a rescue package underwritten by the Executive and the UK Government was agreed in May allowing for smaller savers who had invested less than £20,000 to get all their money back.
Those with more will receive 85%, with the other 15% dependent on the sale of PMS property and assets.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said the payouts, which totalled £232m, were a "significant milestone".
"The cheques issued today will ease the hardship caused to members of the society who were denied access to their savings," she said.
Among those who received a cheque was Sarah Campbell, who had more than £15,000 invested in the PMS.
"This has been a long and hard fight, but today has been worth it," she said. "At times I wondered if I would see the money again. I am just so grateful to everyone who campaigned on our behalf. Without their help the outcome would not have been so good."
Isobel Whyte from the PMS Savers Lobby Group said there was a tremendous sense of relief that the matter has finally been resolved, but she added: "It is, however, tinged with sadness because there are some people who did not survive to see their funds restored to their families."
Former Presbyterian moderator Dr Stafford Carson, who has been leading the Church's response to the crisis, said it marked the end of a long campaign.
"Today's payments will come as a great relief to members of the Presbyterian Mutual Society who have been without their money for nearly three years and have endured the resulting distress, anxiety and uncertainty with great patience," he said.
Current moderator Dr Ivan Patterson expressed thanks to those who had voluntarily deferred a return of some of their money so that others would benefit.
"I would express sincere thanks to every congregational committee and every individual who has opted to leave an extra amount in the PMS so that smaller savers could be paid off first," said Dr Patterson.
Mid-Ulster MLA Ian McCrea, who was involved in the campaign to return savings, welcomed the payout but said the matter should have been resolved sooner.
Secretary of State Owen Paterson said it had brought relief to many families.
"This has been a very stressful and worrying time for a great many people, particularly the elderly who thought that their savings were gone forever," he said.