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Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 07:47 GMT
Punt passes away quietly
Hapenny Bridge in Dublin
Dubliners shed no tears at the loss of their currency
By BBC Dublin Correspondent James Helm

The Irish pound ceased to be legal tender from midnight on Saturday as Ireland became the second country within the eurozone - after the Netherlands - to ditch its old notes and coins.

The dual currency period of euros and the pound has now ended, although banks will continue to swap old notes for new.

Inside the high security complex of the Central Bank of Ireland's Currency Centre south of Dublin, the shredding machines have been busy.

Millions of notes are being placed on conveyor belts, which tip them down into the shredders.

Currency scrapheap

Neat brickettes of finely chopped money pop out the other end - thousands of Irish pounds reduced to waste.

Euro
Ireland is the second country to use solely the euro
I was presented with one as a souvenir - thousands of tiny pieces of history.

From the centre, most of the waste is taken away to landfill sites. For the pound, or punt in Irish, this is farewell.

The modern Irish pound arrived in 1928. Now, in 2002, it has already largely disappeared, replaced by the euro.

At midnight on 9 February, it ceased to be legal tender, and the "dual circulation period" which began on 1 January ended. It went out out with more of a whimper than a bang.

Little nostalgia

On 2 January, when stores re-opened in Dublin after the New Year break, they had to cope not only with the sales rush, but the arrival of the new currency, the euro.

We went to St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre in the middle of Dublin and were struck by the calmness of shop staff and customers in dealing with the new currency.


The new money's here, so let's get on with it

Dublin taxi driver

Free currency converters were even handed out to help shoppers.

More than a month on, people I spoke to there this week were showing the same sort of pragmatism towards the end of the punt.

A man in his early 20s told me he had forgotten about the Irish currency after just a few days of the euro, and had not even registered that it would soon cease to be legal tender.

An elderly woman said she was not sad about saying goodbye to the Irish pound, joking that her own money is always disappearing too, whatever the currency.

Sentimentality is in short supply. Every taxi driver I have asked about the changeover seems to shrug and say something along the lines of: "The new money's here, so let's get on with it."

Smooth transition

There is satisfaction here that the changeover has gone so well. Around 80% of the country's punts had been handed over here by the end of week one of the euro.

The switch was run by the Euro Changeover Board, which got its message across through an advertising blitz on TV, radio & in newspapers.

In due course, all 3bn worth of Irish notes and coins will either be destroyed or will become souvenirs and museum pieces.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Helm
"200 million old notes have already been tipped into shredding machines"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Farewell punt
What are your memories of the Irish currency?

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See also:

09 Feb 02 | Europe
02 Jan 02 | N Ireland
25 Nov 01 | Europe
05 Dec 01 | Business
07 Dec 01 | Europe
05 Jan 02 | Business
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