Shopkeepers in a border town in Ireland are offering to trade in the near obsolete punt to try and turn the clock back on the recession and euro currency crisis.
Even though the old notes and coins of the Republic are no longer legal tender, 42 businesses in Clones, Co Monaghan, are willing to accept them as payment and exchange them in the Central Bank.
The Embrace the Punt campaign has been championed for the last two months by Tony Morgan, who runs the Liptons store and has taken in about IR£1,000 since.
“It’s going to be running for us for five years I’d say – I think it’s long-term,” he said.
The idea came from his son Ciarán who saw reports on the Spanish fishing village of Mugardos where 60 local stores had reintroduced the peseta.
The Central Bank said at the end of 2010 there were €238 million in Irish banknotes outstanding and €125.5m worth of coins outstanding.
The exchange rate being offered in Clones matches the value of the euro when it was introduced in 2002 – €1.27 to the punt, although coinage is only being taken on an even money basis.
Shops in Clones accepting the old currency include major retail outlet Supervalu and locals are convinced that it is attracting people to the town who would never have travelled before.
Mr Morgan said he dealt with a couple who live eight miles away over the border in Belturbet, Northern Ireland, but who had never set foot in Clones in their lives.
The next initiative by shopkeepers is to take the campaign online with a YouTube video promoting the currency exchange – most businesses now offer to take euro and sterling as well as the old punt.
“We couldn’t have bought better publicity and advertising,” Mr Morgan said.
“There are always people coming home on holidays, people who are in London, abroad, they’ve emigrated and they can come down to the shop and spend.
“The fact that 42 businesses have taken it on shows that it’s a runner.
“Mind you, if I had suggested in the town to bring back the punt on my own they would have sent some boys out with a straitjacket for me.
“There’s a bit of positivity for a change around the country.
“It’s so negative – we are talking to each other in the chamber of commerce meeting and they are a bit more light-hearted.”
To give an idea of how many punts are being returned nationally, the Central Bank said it took in IR£1,803,760, or €2.29m worth of notes, and IR£246,962.30, or €313,577.43 worth of coins, in the first 11 months of last year.