I have inserted below an article which appeared in the Irish Times recently about a new local currency being launched in Kilkenny.  It doesn’t give a lot of real detail but it could be one way of coping with depressed economic conditions i.e. a new kind of localised barter system.  As it happens, the latest issue of Area has a review of a book on local currency systems, and I have included the relevant bibliographic details after the Irish Times article.

Proinnsias Breathnach

‘Cat’ currency could give Kilkenny economy new life


Sat, Nov 14, 2009

THE CELTIC Tiger may be skint but there are tentative plans in Kilkenny to launch a local currency called, inevitably, the Cat.  Community action group Future Proof Kilkenny hopes to launch a paper currency next year that could be used to pay for goods and services in local shops and businesses.  Spokesman Brian Dillon said the Cat would not replace the euro but would be a complementary, parallel currency. He hopes a pilot scheme with the backing of the chamber of commerce may be launched by next summer. The Cat would be issued in notes equivalent in value to €1, €5 and €10.

To encourage usage, he said, one Cat could be bought for 95 cent – but the note would be treated as €1 by a shopkeeper, which would mean an automatic 5 per cent discount on purchases.  He said a competition would be held for the design of the new notes which “could feature famous local faces such as members of the Kilkenny hurling team”, who are known as the Cats.  Cats would have to be spent in Kilkenny, so visitors would have to spend leftover notes before their departure as the currency could not be used elsewhere.  Mr Dillon said the scheme would be similar to other local currency projects such as those launched in Kenmare, Co Kerry, and Brixton in London.

Sceptics of local currency systems say the alternative notes are simply a glorified form of gift- voucher or a formalised system of bartering. Supporters claim, however, that such schemes help to keep money circulating in a local economy.

One of the most widely used and successful local currencies in the world is the Disney Dollar, which is used to pay for goods and services in the eponymous theme parks.

An electronic version of the Cat involving chip-and-pin cards might also be launched, said Mr Dillon. This method would be used to pay local authority rates and other charges, he said.

Talks are planned with the council in January to secure backing for the Cat, but the proposal has already won the support of the mayor, Malcolm Noonan of the Green Party. It could even prove to be “a big money spinner as many tourists might not actually redeem their Cats but instead hang on to them as souvenirs”, he said.

A spokeswoman for the Central Bank in Dublin said the European Central Bank in Frankfurt had issued strict guidelines on reproducing or mimicking euro notes but as long as the Cat notes did not replicate euro notes, there wouldn’t be a problem. She stressed that the Cat would not be legal tender and could not be exchanged for euro at banks.

© 2009 The Irish Times

North Peter 2007 Money and liberation: the micropolitics of alternative currency movements.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press ISBN 978 0 8166 4963 1