Demand for loans from the country's 386 credit unions has fallen for a second year, as households continue to resist taking on additional debt during the current harsh economic climate.

While many unions will be restructured this year they hope to increase their services, including introducing online banking services within a year.

Over 2,000 delegates are attending the AGM of the Irish League of Credit unions in Limerick this weekend.

They now have 3.1 million customers, an increase of 36,000 last year.

Demand for loans was done 12%, down for a second year, as households curb their spending and debt.

But for many the credit unions remain the only place they can get a loan.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said the Government had pledged €500m to help credit unions to restructure, to ensure they continued their important role in the community.