Changing money

Feb 13th, 2008 | By | Category: Ireland

We were both students in the early summer of 1986, but my ordination was imminent and we were determined to go on a camping holiday in Britanny. It would mean getting by on about £10 a day when we were there, but that was no great problem – baguettes and cheese were cheap, and wine could still be bought for 50 pence a bottle. During the college year we had managed to save five hundred Irish pounds and as the end of term approached, I went to the bank on College Green in Dublin to get the money changed into Sterling so that we would could return to Northern Ireland with money for a tent and travelling expenses. The exchange rate was not favourable, the Irish Punt being only worth 80p Sterling, but we had no money anywhere else.

I went to the foreign exchange desk and said I would like to exchange our IR£500 for Sterling. The woman glared at me, “You are supposed to have prior clearance to exchange that much”.

I explained that it was our holiday savings and she sourly conceded that on this occasion she would let me have the money.

I had heard of exchange controls, but never thought that they would apply to the little amount that we had. I wondered how businesses managed to operate if this was the regime.

The incident comes to mind each time I read of Bertie Ahern’s dealings with the Mahon Tribunal and his account of a lodgment of a large cash sum, whatever the amount, £30,000 Sterling or US$45,000. The Maastricht Treaty had come into force by then – there was the free movement of money, goods and services (except for those the Irish Government decided it wanted to tax), but I wonder if a dour faced woman stared through the glass at him and demanded to know his business. Did he ever have to explain what the money was for?

Even now a large lodgment flashes up on bank managers’ monitors – they want to know where the money has come from. Last year I had to write to a bank and explain that money electronically transferred into our account was a bequest, they could see from the statement that it was from a solicitor.

There seems one law for nobodies like me and another for the Taoiseach and his friends.

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  1. Ian the trouble is you tell the truth!

  2. Grannymar,

    It makes me angry that little people are subject to the full force of our financial regime, while the Taoiseach and others can skip through and still claim the confidence of a Dail majority. It is not credible to claim that one could casually lodge £30,000 – either the bank is telling lies about their administration of the law and deliberately turned a blind eye to an amount that was twice what a working man earned in a year, or the person making the lodgment was dishonest

  3. mmm. . .weird that! At least you’re not living in South Africa. I have friends there who are looking to leave and they can only take out 260,000 pounds. They are a wealthy couple and have no right to their own money thanks to a lousy economy, corrupt regime and withdrawal controls. A case for keeping your dosh under the bed perhaps!

    I have a theory that bank tellers are sour because you have more money than they do! Needless to say, they’re very polite to penniless me!

  4. Ian I have been listening to Bertie and some of his confused stuttering on RTE and I find it unbelievable to the point where I burst out laughing the other day. How can this man carry on in a position that he is in!!By the time Bertie had finished at the Exchange desk the woman would probably give him anything to get rid of him.

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