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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 14:58 GMT
Northern Ireland's euro express
Hapenny Bridge in Dublin
The euro is already the official Dublin currency
By James Kerr, BBC Northern Ireland business editor

Think cross-border in Northern Ireland and one of the first things to come to mind is 'The Enterprise'.


In the Republic people have been told about the euro, and given calculators to work out its value, but some of our Belfast passengers could find it confusing

Gerard McAtasney
It is the express train service that runs eight times a day between Belfast and Dublin.

Staff on the route are used to dealing with two currencies - but in the six week changeover to the euro, they are going to be working with three.

All fares and buffet car prices are currently published in sterling, punt and euro, and according to the route manager Gerard McAtasney they are hoping it will all go smoothly.

"In the Republic people have been told about the euro, and given calculators to work out its value, but some of our Belfast passengers could find it confusing.

"However staff have been trained to explain the changes."

Dual currency experience

Northern Ireland's land boundary with the Republic puts it in a unique position.

There has always been a lot of trade across the border (not all of it legal) so many retailers and residents in the province are already accustomed to dealing with another currency.

According to Declan McChesney from Newry Chamber of Trade, his town is ready for the euro.

"We've always relied on the punt trade, so we don't see this as a problem. Shopkeepers have done their homework, they've altered their tills and trained their staff."

At Sainsbury's in the town a third of their takings are currently in punts.

Picking up euro

The company says it is planning to make it as easy as possible to work out what goods cost, but as sterling continues to float against the euro they won't be putting sterling prices on the shelves.

Meanwhile at the Bank of Ireland in the town it will be possible for travellers heading south to pick up euro from the service-till.


There is a huge volume of people crossing the border, and in time they are going to ask about why it is being used over there and not here

Jim Dougal
EC office Belfast
Colm McKenna, the Bank's head of Treasury says it is a service people want.

"We installed our first dual currency ATM last year, we now have five and plan to increase that number."

Many manufacturing businesses in Northern Ireland trade with the Republic and the wider EU.

A change of mood?

For them the euro came into existence in 1999 and several have embraced the single currency since; opening euro accounts and trying to balance their eurozone sales with purchases of raw materials, hence cutting out exchange rate risks.

So far Northern Ireland has only really addressed the practical issues of dealing with the euro.

There has been little public discussion on the rights and wrongs of joining.

Jim Dougal head of the European Commission office in Belfast says he hopes the advent of notes and coins will prompt that debate.

"There is a huge volume of people crossing the border, and in time they are going to ask about why it is being used over there and not here."


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