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article imageIrish town returns to using the punt as currency

By Anne Sewell     Jun 11, 2012 in World
Clones - The town of Clones in Ireland, struggling with the Euro crisis, now uses the old Irish punt as currency in its shops. This is doing much to boost the economy of the town.
Just three days prior to Ireland's crucial referendum on the Eurozone's fiscal pact, which could further complicate the ongoing debate on austerity in Europe, one small town near the Northern Ireland border decided to start using the old Irish currency, the punt (pound).
Shopkeepers, bar owners, butchers and ordinary citizens in Clones, County Monaghan have taken matters into their own hands by reintroducing the old currency. Apparently thousands of punts have been stored away in drawers and under mattresses and they are now being resurrected.
As part of an experiment to boost the economy of a town ravaged by the economic downturn, citizens are exploiting a financial loophole which says that the punt is still legal currency.
Anyone throughout Ireland who still owns some punts is welcome to visit Clones and use the currency in exchange for blue and yellow laminated vouchers, which are then redeemable at any of the 45 businesses who have joined the scheme.
Ciaran Morgan, a 24-year-old university student, together with his father, dreamed up the idea. He says, "There have been people coming from as far south as Kerry and as far north as Antrim to spend money in the town since it began this spring."
Morgan says that he came up with the idea after seeing an article on the internet about a village in Spain that still uses the old peseta as an alternative to the euro.
He says, "We checked with the central bank in Dublin and we were staggered to find there was around 285 million punts that could still be exchanged as legal currency.
"We got the plastic vouchers printed in China and then started the project in March. Customers who have punts come to the town, go into a shop or business, and they then get the euro equivalent on the voucher which they must spend here in Clones."
Morgan adds: "In our shop alone we've taken in over 1,000 punts."
The scheme is called Embrace the Punt and offers to accept old punts at a rate of 1 punt to 1.20 euro. The punts are then sold back to the Irish Central Bank at a rate of 1 punt to 1.27 euro.
Morgan stresses, "The seven cents made on each transaction isn't used for profit in the shops. Each seven cents made is put into a central fund to pay for things like Clones's Christmas lights or the St Patrick's Day parade."
Despite the unexpected boost, the town is still suffering from the effects of the economic crash with many boarded-up shops and many for sale and to let signs on display.
"As you can see, 50% of the businesses in our main street are closed," Morgan says.
"If we take one more euro into the town as a result of this scheme then it is surely a good thing. I was absolutely bowled over by the amount of punts still out there in the country so hopefully if we got 1% of that 285m it would be great."
And now, the only euros visible inside Lipton's mini market in Clones are printed on toilet rolls, tissue paper and other novelty items. Almost everything else in the shop can now be bought with the pre-euro Irish currency, the punt.
However, the Irish Central Bank insists that it is not printing new punts, only euros.
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