About the euro
What is the euro?
The euro is the single currency used in 19 EU member states, including Ireland. (The 19 countries in the Euro area are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain).
The euro came into being in cashless form on 1 January 1999 when 12 of these member states formed an Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and permanently locked the exchange rates of their currencies against the euro. Euro notes and coins were put into circulation in 12 of these EU states on 1 January 2002. (Slovenia joined the euro zone in January 2007. Malta and Cyprus adopted the euro on 1 January 2008. Slovakia adopted the euro in January 2009, Estonia joined in January 2011 and Lithuania adopted the euro in January 2015).
Exchanging Irish banknotes and coin
The Central Bank of Ireland will exchange all Irish banknotes and coins for euro indefinitely (this means for many years to come). If you call into the Central Bank, banknotes to the value of £3,000 (€3,800) per transaction can be exchanged. If you wish to exchange more than £3,000, the value in euro will be forwarded to you as a cheque through the post. If you wish to exchange Irish coins, values up to £500 (€635) can be exchanged immediately. If you have more than £500 in coins, the euro value will be forwarded to you as a cheque through the post. (All coins must be separated by denomination and presented in coin bags).
You can call into the Central Bank or you can send Irish banknotes to the Central Bank by registered post and you will receive their value in euro by cheque. (See address under 'Where to apply').
Exchanging euro-area banknotes and coins
If you have banknotes from a holiday or trip to another EU country that is now part of the euro area it is still possible to exchange these banknotes for euro. In order to exchange this currency, you will need to send the notes to the national central banks of the relevant country. Details of your name and address and, if applicable, your bank account details should be included with the bank notes. (You should be aware that the postage cost of sending the bank notes might exceed their euro value).
There is no means of exchanging foreign coin other than by travelling to the country in question and exchanging it at that country's national central bank.
Countries in the euro area
The 19 countries in the euro area (also known as the eurozone) are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. The United Kingdom (UK) decided not to participate.
Euro notes and coins were first put into circulation on 1 January 2002. The euro is part of the process of EMU provided for in the Maastricht Treaty, which the people of Ireland endorsed by referendum in June 1992. As well as the euro, EMU has involved the creation of an independent European Central Bank (ECB).
The euro is used also in Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City. Several overseas territories of the 167 euro area countries use the euro: these include the Canaries, Madeira, the Azores and the French Outre-Mer territories (Guyana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Reunion and the collective territories of Mayotte and St Pierre and Miquelon).
How was the euro introduced?
On 1 January 1999, the exchange rates of the countries joining EMU were permanently locked against the Euro. In Ireland the euro is worth £0.787564 or just under 79 pence. The period between 1 January 1999 and 31 December 2001 was known as the transition period. On 1 January 2002, euro notes and coins were put into circulation and the withdrawal of national notes and coins began. From 9 February 2002, the Irish pound was no longer accepted for transactions. The euro changeover in Ireland was complete by 1 July 2002.
Euro notes and coins
- There are 7 euro banknotes, in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500.
- There are 8 euro coins, in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and €1 and €2. There are 100 cent to the euro.
- The smallest of the euro coins (the 1 cent coin) is slightly smaller than the old Irish 5p coin and the largest (2 euro coin) is about the same size as the old Irish 2p coin.
- One side of the euro coins is the same in all euro area member states. The other side shows the 12 stars of the EU flag, the year and a national emblem. In Ireland, the national emblem is the harp and the word Eire.
Converting from Irish pounds to euro
The conversion rate between the euro and the Irish pound is €1 = £0.787564 and this six-digit figure must always be used when carrying out conversions between the Irish pound and the euro. There are rules to be followed when converting prices from Irish pounds to euro. These are summarised as follows:
- Divide the Irish pound amount by the conversion rate, i.e., by 0.787564
- Round the resulting euro amount to two decimal places, i.e., to cent.
- Round down where the third figure after the decimal point is 4 or lower; round up where it is 5 or higher. For example, €3.174 should be rounded down to €3.17 and €6.348 should be rounded up to €6.35.