Minister: 'We are not ready to move to a completely cashless economy'

Minister: 'We are not ready to move to a completely cashless economy'

While the pandemic has accelerated the use of contactless and digital payments, the finance minister says cash remains a vital part of the Irish economy.

The increased use of contactless and digital payments during the pandemic will not lead to the exclusion of cash payments in Ireland, the minister for finance has said.

The rise in digital financial services has seen some retailers refuse to accept cash but has led to concerns that vulnerable groups who rely on cash payments could be excluded.

The issue was raised in the Dáil recently where Labour Party spokesperson for finance Ged Nash asked the minister, Paschal Donohoe, if legislation was planned to ban digital-only payments. 

The minister confirmed that, currently, a retailer can refuse to accept cash as payment if they display a sign at the till informing their customers.

"Notwithstanding the significant increase in the take-up of electronic payments, cash remains a vital part of the Irish payment system. 

"An Indecon report commissioned by my department in 2019 concluded that a fully cashless society would not be an appropriate objective for policymakers."

Mr Nash said: "For a host of different reasons, we are not ready as a society and economy to go completely cashless.

"I support moves towards a digital-first approach, and there are lots of benefits for consumers and businesses in that regard — but I believe that, in terms of the short to medium term future, options to pay in cash in most circumstances need to remain available.

"It is interesting that some cities and states in the US are prohibiting cashless outlets, and a recent UK public accounts committee [report] issued warnings on the risks cashless societies pose for vulnerable citizens.

"We cannot leave behind and exclude vulnerable groups from playing a full and active role in economic and social life so we have to proceed on this issue with caution."

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