Almost €350m in old Irish punts remain unaccounted for

Just €1.22m in total was redeemed in 2017, according to Central Bank data

Irish pounds, no longer legal tender, can still be exchanged for their equivalent in euro at the Central Bank’s headquarters on New Wapping Street, North Wall Quay in Dublin

Irish pounds, no longer legal tender, can still be exchanged for their equivalent in euro at the Central Bank’s headquarters on New Wapping Street, North Wall Quay in Dublin

 

The Central Bank has a treasure chest of cash waiting to be claimed – but with little expectation that much of it will ever be redeemed.

Sixteen years after the punt was withdrawn from circulation almost €350 million of “old money” or Irish pounds remain unaccounted for.

The pre-euro Irish pounds, no longer legal tender, can still be exchanged for their equivalent in euro at the Central Bank’s headquarters on New Wapping Street, North Wall Quay in Dublin.

But Central Bank officials are not holding their breath for a rush to exchange old money, based on the public’s response since the changeover.

At the end of 2002 and the first year of operation of the euro notes and coin, 90 per cent of Irish pounds had been withdrawn from circulation, leaving just under €463 million worth of old notes and coins.

In the intervening 15 years just €113.52 million in old Irish money has been handed in for euro, leaving €349.48 million yet to be exchanged, at a rate of £1 to €1.26974 (€1.27).

Skips and gardens

People continue to exchange money but in ever decreasing amounts. In 2017 up to Christmas week, just €1.22 million worth was exchanged – €980,000 in notes and €240,000 in coin.

A Central Bank spokesman said there is now €226.02 million in outstanding Irish punt notes and €123.46 million of outstanding Irish punt coin.

In 2016, the figure was slightly larger, the equivalent of €1.28 million in notes and €194,000 in coin were exchanged, a total of €1.474 million.

Ten years ago an average of 150 people a week arrived at the Central Bank to exchange their old punts but this has dwindled considerably.

Some Irish pounds have been found in skips, in gardens when they are being dug for house extensions, under mattresses, behind wallpaper and in items of clothing donated to charity.

By law, however, the Central Bank has to make provision for the possibility, however remote, that all €350 million will be returned for exchange. The bank will continue indefinitely to redeem the old money for its face value equivalent in euro.

The notes handed in are shredded and recycled, and coins are melted down for re-use.