Northern Ireland

Presbyterian church meets over PMS contribution

PMS name plate
Image caption Thousands of PMS members have been unable to retrieve their savings

The Presbyterian Church is meeting later to decide how to fund its £1m contribution to help savers hit by the collapse of its Mutual Society.

It will also decide its response to the Executive's request to increase the church's contribution from £1m to £5m.

Former moderator of the church Dr Stafford Carson said there was no extra money within the Presbyterian church.

However, he added that they would try to return money to those who were desperate.

"There is the widespread myth that there is a huge pot of money in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and that just does not exist," Dr Carson said.

"We have been in discussions with the administrator so we can help him, through what we do as a church, to get to the point where people who are in desperate straits will get their money returned to them.

"We believe we have a scheme in place which will enable that to happen."

The PMS crashed in November 2008, owing almost 10,000 investors money.

A High Court judge will decide later if the church can use its own money to help. Last April the church agreed to contribute £1m.

But it needs legal approval because the Presbyterian Church is a charity and its funds can normally only be used for charitable purposes.

Dr Carson said he hoped there would be a favourable judgement.

He said the church had not put a top figure on what it would contribute.

"We have said that we will try and work beyond the £1m and we will do all that's necessary to achieve our primary goal," he said.

'Moral obligation'

A rescue plan of over £200m has been agreed including contributions from the British government and the Stormont Executive.

A treasury loan of £175m also forms part of the package for PMS savers.

On Wednesday, the High Court was told the Presbyterian Church is under a moral obligation to donate funds to the rescue package.

Lawyers for the church argued it would be in breach of this duty if it went back on a pledge to contribute to the bail-out.

The Attorney General was also represented at the hearing because he has a duty to protect the public interest in any case involving charities.

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