COUNTY LEITRIM, Ireland (5/13/11)--Stress tests being carried out on the Ireland’s 410 credit unions are expected to lead to a substantial reduction in the number of branches nationally by the end of the year. It is expected that stress test results will show that at least 80 of the country’s credit unions are in serious financial difficulty (Leitrim Observer May 11) All savings deposits in Irish credit unions are covered by a government guarantee. Experts predict that than half of all credit unions nationally may be closed or merged into other credit unions. Sources said they expect the first 80 branches to be closed by the end of the year. “Given the expected adverse stress test results and the challenges facing 400 plus individual credit unions to operate, compete and be regulated in the wider financial sector, it is likely that there will be a major amalgamation of credit unions into fewer and larger entities--one possible method to do this is on a countywide basis,” Colm O’Grady, credit union specialist with Russell Brennan Keane, Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers told the Observer.