Shoppers take a punt on town's offer to dig out their old notes
THEY have spent the past decade stuffed under mattresses or stashed in piggy-banks but yesterday they were handed into the Central Bank as part of one town's bid to resurrect the punt.
Shop owner Tony Morgan, from Clones, Co Monaghan, exchanged IR£948, the proceeds from the last fortnight of the 'Embrace the Punt' campaign at his general store, Liptons, and the local SuperValu.
However, it was a bitter-sweet day for the businessman who waved goodbye to his 21-year-old son Ciaran at Dublin Airport as the young man joined the tens of thousands of Irish people emigrating.
Ciaran had come up with the recession-busting campaign after hearing of a similar initiative in Spain where a small fishing village resurrected the peseta and its flagging retail sales into the bargain.
"He went this morning to New York. He's going for the summer but you never know," said a doubtful Mr Morgan.
He said Ciaran will be sorry to miss the media buzz created by his idea. Yesterday, Mr Morgan was accompanied to the Central Bank by a Swedish television crew who are filming a story about the campaign.
"He's mad to be missing that but he'll still be involved from New York. He's updating our Facebook page," explained Mr Morgan.
Although the punt stopped being legal tender in 2002, the campaign allows members of the public to use the old currency to buy goods and services at more than 40 businesses in the town including bars, solicitors' firms, a bookies and a bakery.
Change is given in Clones town vouchers, which are in euros, and can be used at participating businesses.
The exchange rate being used is IR£1 for €1.20, although all coins attract a like-for-like value so that one old pound coin is €1.
Mr Morgan said the whole idea of the campaign is to get more money being spent in Clones -- and it is working. Many are coming from north of the Border who had missed out on exchanging their punt for euro in 2002.
"A shoe shop in the town had a man come from Armagh and he spent IR£110 on two pairs of shoes. The bulk of custom has been from people from the north of Ireland but they have come from Kerry, Meath and other counties.
"I expect to be down here every two weeks to exchange punts for euro . . . This is not a nine-day wonder, I think it will run for years," he added.
Other towns in Donegal and Monaghan are now thinking of copying the initiative.
Last year the Central Bank exchanged IR£2,357,324 for €2,993,184 from members of the public. However, this is just the tip of the punt iceberg.
The bank estimates there is IR£184.5m in notes and IR£98m in coins still "outstanding" -- that equates to €359m and €125m respectively.