The town of Clones – just 88km away from Belfast – had been severely affected by the nation’s economic downturn; and decided to resurrect the former currency after discovering a financial loophole in the Irish legal system, which said that any punts stuffed under mattresses, inside piggy banks, kept as souvenirs in shoeboxes, or accumulated in latent bank accounts, can still be considered as legal currency.
“We checked with the central bank in Dublin and we were staggered to find there was around 285 million punts that could still be exchanged as legal currency,” said Ciaran Morgan, a 21-year-old university student who, along with his father, had thought up the idea of reviving the punt.
Related: Ireland Economy
Morgan said that he was inspired to come up with the plan after seeing a report on the Internet about a village in Spain that had reintroduced the peseta as an alternative to the euro. Any Irish is still holding on to the punt has been encouraged to visit Clones and spend the currency there.
“There have been people coming from as far south as Kerry and as far north as Antrim to spend money in the town since it began this spring," said Morgan, whose family runs a small shop along the road up to the Northern Ireland border.
"In our shop alone we've taken in over 1,000 punts,” he said.
The punts accepted in Clones are exchanged at a rate of 1 punt to 1.20 euros by the business owners. The punts are then collectively sold back to the Irish Central bank at a rate of 1 punt to 1.27 euros.
Morgan stressed that the seven cents made on each transaction was not used for profits by the shops but are “put into a central fund to pay for things like Clones's Christmas lights or the St Patrick's Day parade."
According to Dunwoody, the “experiment” with the punt was a welcome boost to a town where 50 percent of the businesses along its main street had already been forced to close due to the economic crisis.
Ireland will head to a referendum this Thursday to decide whether to support or reject a fiscal treaty with the European Union. Ireland's current EU-International Monetary Fund loans are due to run out by the end of next year, and the treaty specifies that only ratified members will be able to access future EU loans.
Clones’ residents, such as candy shop owner Raymond Hickey, though are torn between the benefits of receiving new loans from the EU and the disillusionment that has arisen because of the financial constraints that come with the loans.
Find out more about Clones’ punt movement by viewing their site: embracethepunt.com