The Irish pound (English) or punt Éireannach (Irish) was the currency of Ireland until 2002. Its ISO 4217 code was IEP, and the usual notation was the prefix £, or IR£ where confusion might have arisen with the pound sterling or other pounds. The Irish pound was superseded by the euro on 1 January, 1999, when the Irish pound legally became a subdivision of the euro; actual euro currency did not begin circulation until the beginning of 2002.
In 1701, the relationship between the Irish pound and sterling was fixed at 13 Irish pounds = 12 pounds sterling. This led to a situation where Irish copper coins circulated with British silver coins, since 13 pence Irish = 1 British shilling. The only 19th century exceptions were silver tokens denominated in pence Irish issued by the Bank of Ireland between 1804 and 1813. The last Irish copper pennies and halfpennies were minted in 1823. The distinct Irish pound existed until January 1826 when it was replaced by British currency. Irish banks continued to issue paper money denominated in sterling after 1826 but no further distinct coins were issued.
Decimalisation was overseen by the Irish Decimal Currency Board which was created on June 12, 1968. It provided a variety of changeover information including a pamphlet called Everyone's Guide to Decimal Currency. The changeover occurred on Decimal Day, February 15, 1971.
Right up until complete withdrawal of the Irish pound on February 9, 2002, those UK coins which were the same sizes and compositions as the corresponding Irish coins were accepted virtually everywhere in Ireland.
This period also saw the creation of the Currency Centre at Sandyford in 1978 so that banknotes and coinage could be manufactured within the state. Prior to this banknotes were printed by specialist commercial printers in England, and coins by the Royal Mint.
Until 1986, all decimal Irish coins were the same shape and size as their UK counterparts. After this, however, all new denominations or redesigned coins were of different sizes to the UK coinage. The new 20p and £1 coins were completely different in size, shape and composition to the previously introduced UK versions. When the UK 5p and 10p coins were reduced in size, the Irish followed suit but with the new Irish 10p smaller than the new UK version and the new Irish 5p slightly bigger than the UK version. The Irish 50p was never reduced in size as it was in the UK and this was presumably due to forthcoming replacement of the Irish pound by the euro.
Although the euro became the currency of the Eurozone countries including the Republic on 1 January 1999, it wasn't until the agreed date of 1 January 2002 that the state began to withdraw Irish pound coins and notes, replacing them with euro specie. All other Eurozone countries withdrew their currencies in a similar fashion, from the agreed date. Irish pound coins and notes ceased to be legal tender on 9 February 2002, although they will be exchangeable indefinitely for euro at the Central Bank.
On 31 December 2001, the total value of Irish banknotes in circulation was €4,343.8 million, and the total value of Irish coins was €387.9 million. The Irish cash changeover was one of the fastest in the Eurozone, with some shops illegally ceasing to accept pounds after the first week or two. With a conversion factor of 0.787564 Irish pounds to the euro, fifty-six per cent of the value of Irish banknotes was withdrawn from circulation within two weeks of the introduction of euro banknotes and coins, and 83.4 per cent by the time they ceased to have legal tender status.
Withdrawal of coinage was slower, having a lower priority, with only 45 per cent of coins withdrawn by 9 February 2002. This figure is somewhat misleading, as at that point, almost all coinage in circulation had indeed been withdrawn – the remainder being kept as souvenirs, in hoards, or missing in households.
All Irish coins and banknotes, from the start of the Irish Free State onwards, both decimal and pre-decimal, may be exchanged for euro at the Central Bank in Dublin.
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