The first of what it is hoped will be many thousands of Irish punts were exchanged at the Central Bank in Dublin yesterday.
The money was dusted down and taken from bottom drawers around the country and then spent in Clones, Co Monaghan, which has become the first town to accept the punt as payment for goods.
Two weeks ago, 43 businesses joined the “Embrace the Punt” campaign, and the initiative has begun to pay off.
“A shoe shop in the town had a man come from Armagh and he spent £110 on two pairs of shoes,” said Tony Morgan, who owns Liptons general store in Clones. “The bulk of custom has been from people from the North of Ireland, but they have come from Kerry, Meath, and other counties.”
The punt stopped being legal tender 10 years ago and can be exchanged at the Central Bank.
Last year, it exchanged £2,357,324, which adds up to €2,993,184.
However, in a unique effort to help bring business back to the recession-hit town in Monaghan, it was decided to accept the punt. Change is given in vouchers that can be spent in any of the businesses taking part in the initiative.
“I expect to be down here every two weeks to exchange punts for euro,” Mr Morgan said outside the Central Bank, where he was laden down with £948, £773 of which was in notes.
That money was from just two of the businesses in the town.
Mr Morgan said: “My son Ciaran suggested it to me after reading about Mugardos in Spain, where 60 shops agreed to accept pesetas alongside the euro in an attempt to encourage spending during a time of economic crisis.
“There is a buzz around Clones we have not seen in a while.”
Other towns in Donegal and Monaghan are now thinking of copying the initiative and it has sparked a flurry of media interest from around the world.
The story was featured on the front page of the Irish Examiner, prompting calls to the town from journalists across the globe.
“We have had journalists from Holland and Denmark visiting us, and today a television crew from Sweden is spending the day in Clones and there is a feature on us in The Guardian newspaper,” said Mr Morgan. “This is not a nine-day wonder. I think it will run for years.”
Yesterday, the Central Bank said there are some £184.5m in notes and £98.3m in coins still outstanding.
That equates to about €359m.
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