Charities fear new currency will mean lower donations

Saturday, September 1, 2001

DUBLIN, Ireland -- Orla Dowd is a lady of rare generosity. As the Dubliner walks down O'Connell Street she habitually gives a pound coin to each of the charities shaking collection cans and buckets outside the General Post Office.

"They're all good causes and it keeps my purse light," says Dowd, who expects soon to be offering the charities her spare euro coins, once the new European common currency becomes the legal tender of Ireland in January.

From street beggars to Roman Catholic bishops, donation-dependent people and organizations in Ireland are worried about the advent of the euro. Unlike the other 11 nations adopting the common currency, Ireland's base unit of currency -- the Irish pound -- has a fixed value that's greater than the euro.

"The natural inclination will be for people who normally donate a pound coin to substitute the new equivalent, a euro coin. If that happens it would be a blow to parish finances across the land," said the Rev. Rory O'Sullivan, a priest in rural County Kerry who is leading the Catholic church's warnings about the issue.

Europeans got their first look at the new currency Thursday, when the European Central Bank showed off seven colorful notes with hidden holograms and other security elements that are said to make them the most counterfeit-proof in the world.

The state-of-the-art bills start circulating Jan. 1. Starter kits of coins will be introduced in most countries in December.

The euro has existed since Jan. 1, 1999, when national currencies were pegged to it, but 300 million people in the euro bloc have continued to use their old national currencies as cash. After the New Year changeover, national currencies will still be accepted as legal tender during transitional periods ranging from two to six months.

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