Harp and coinage – time for change

Living tradition

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – Irish people pay great attention to the manner in which, as a nation, we are “branded” internationally. The design of a new passport always provokes comment, and the question of what flag should fly over a future united Ireland generates great heat, if not much light.

The aspect of our branding that is most visible, at least throughout the EU, is our coinage, and not enough thought has been put into exploiting the possibilities offered by that.

The coins offer an unchanging image of the old Irish harp, which has been the emblem of Ireland since Tudor times, and that is as it should be.

Loath as I am, as a piper, to acknowledge it, the harp is the senior instrument in Irish musical heritage. But the harp on our coins, as in all our official iconography, is always the Trinity College harp. It is as if that was the only example of the Irish instrument that captivated European taste and imaginations for centuries.


There are other well-known examples of this famous instrument, and it would add to the attraction of our coinage to have them depicted on our coins.

The Trinity harp might be retained for the highest value coin, and the other coins used to demonstrate that our astonishing musical heritage didn’t rest on a single instrument.

Such a change would clearly make the point that the Irish harp is not merely a symbol, but a living tradition. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 12.