Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Irish pound (Irish: punt) was the currency unit of the Republic of Ireland until 1999. The Irish pound first came to be as the currency of the Irish Free State in 1928, but was directly linked to the Sterling until 1979. The Irish pound was superseded by the euro on 1 January, 1999.
The Irish pound's ISO 4217 code was IEP, and the usual notation was the prefix £, or where confusion might have arisen with Sterling IR£ was used.
A distinct Irish pound existed before the Act of Union 1801, but this act lead to the disappearence of the currency in 1826 and it would not appear again until 1928, just over one hundred years later. The Irish pound that appeared in 1928 was originally called the 'Saorstát pound' ("Free State pound") and was pegged to the Pound sterling; the currency was referred to as the 'Irish pound' from 1938 after the Constitution of Ireland changed the states' name. In the mid 1960s it was decided to proceed with decimalisation and to this effect the number of pennies in an Irish pound was redefined from 240 to 100 pence - the pound itself was not revalued by this act.
The European Exchange Rate Mechanism broke the final one-for-one link with the Pound Sterling and the Irish pound in March 1979.
Legal Tender Note
The Saorstát pound first appeared as a banknote and was printed by the Currency Commission in 1928; the term "Pound" and "Punt" were used on the banknotes. This banknote, part of the so called "Series A", contained the portait of an Irish colleen of what is believed to be Lady Lavery , the wife of John Lavery. The head on the back was taken from the Custom House, Dublin and is now believed to represent the River Lee as it was unnamed at the time of commission. A faint watermark of the "Head of Erin" also appears on the rear right. The note is 84X151 millimeters and is predominately green, the first date on the notes was 10 September 1928 and the last date was 30 September 1976. The change of the states name from Irish Free State to Ireland in 1938 corresponded to a number of related changes in wording. The creation of the Central Bank of Ireland in 1943 required the substitution of "Currency Commission" with that of "Central Bank of Ireland". In the early 1960s the phrase "Payable in London" was removed from the notes.
The Series A note was withdrawn in the late 1970s and a replacement "Series B" note issued. The front of this note featured the bust of Medb Queen of Connacht and an early Irish geometric design; the rear of the note contains a extract from Lebor na hUidre a manuscript of the Tain. The note was predominately green and red with the first issue dated 10 June 1977 and the final dated 13 September 1989. The note measured 148X78 millimeters and was withdrawn in 1990 in favour of the new coin as paper was becoming too expensive to print on for such a low value.
A final series of banknotes was issued in the early 1990s, called "Series C" but without a Irish pound note, these were; £5 brown featuring Catherine McAuley, £10 green featuring James Joyce, £20 - purple featuring Daniel O'Connell, £50 - blue featuring Douglas Hyde, £100 - red featuring Charles Stewart Parnell.
The coin: A bad design?
On June 20 1990 the Irish pound coin was introduced using the design of a red deer, by the Irish artist Tom Ryan . The 2000 Millennium was used to issue a commemorative coin, the design was based on the "Broighter Boat" in the National Museum of Ireland; the coins design was by Alan Ardiff and Garrett Stokes and were issued on November 29 1999.
The Irish pound coin, which was introduced in 1990, remains the largest coin introduced since decimalisation at 3.11 centimetres diameter and was 10 grams weight. The coin, essentially a flat disk, had the misfortune of being almost identical in dimensions to the old penny coin that circulated before 1971, and was quite similar to but thinner than the half-crown coin. During the early circulation of the coins payphones and vending machines were changed over as expected, however soon the old penny, in particular, became used as a substitute for the pound coin in these devices. This created losses for the operators as these coins had little value, either face or marketwise, notwithstanding the fact that they were no longer legal tender. Soon the devices were changed so that pound coins were not accepted and this remained so until the coin was withdrawn with the advent of the euro.
Furthermore, the rough milled edge did not have an attractive or consistant appearance and this, together with the coins' tendency to quickly tarnish and awkward size, meant that the coin was never a particular favourite among the public.
Although the euro became the currency of the Republic on 1 January, 1999, it wasn't until 1 January, 2002 that the state began to withdraw Irish pound coins and notes, replacing them with euro. Old pound notes lost their legal tender status on 9 February, 2002, although they will be exchangeable indefinitely for euro at the Central Bank.
On 31 December, 2001, the total value of Irish banknotes in circulation was €4,343.8 million, and the total value of Irish coins was €387.9 million. The Irish cash changeover was the fastest in the Eurozone, with some shops illegally ceasing to accept pounds after the first week or two. With a conversion factor of 0.787564 Irish pounds to the euro, fifty-six per cent of the value of Irish banknotes was withdrawn from circulation within two weeks of the introduction of euro banknotes and coins, and 83.4 per cent by the time they ceased to have legal tender status on 9 February.
Withdrawal of coinage was slower, having a lower priority, with only 45 per cent of coins withdrawn by 9 February. This figure is somewhat misleading, as at that point, almost all coinage in circulation had indeed been withdrawn – the remainder being kept as souvenirs, or in hoards. One year after the changeover, €456 million of Irish pound banknotes remained unaccounted for, including one-third of all the £5 notes which, being the smallest denomination, were likely retained as souvenirs.
- The Irish Pound: From Origins to EMU (734K PDF file, from Central Bank website).
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