The Mayo town of Ballyhaunis issues its own legal tender the ROMA.

While Europe moves towards a common currency, Ballyhaunis in Couty Mayo has issued its own currency, the ROMA. Part of a European Union pilot project the ROMA notes are recognised as legal tender within a defined trading area and are accepted by the majority of businesses in Ballyhaunis.

Economist Richard Douthwait explains how the currency works and says it is designed to promote and develop the local economy.

The brilliant thing about it as far as the business community is concerned is that it means that its sponsorship money stays in the area, it doesn’t sort of leak away as it could do if they were giving cash.

The regional currency initiative has the blessing and the financial backing of the European Commission and similar projects are being developed in Scotland, Holland and Spain. The ROMA in Ballyhaunis is the first to come into circulation.

The scheme is being directed by Enterprise Connacht Ulster, an umbrella group which promotes growth in the region. Gerard McGarry thinks the system in Ballyhaunis is unique but is suitable for other small towns and communities.

I believe that we have something that Ballhaunis can sell on to other towns and to other areas.

In addition to boosting the internal economy of Ballyhaunis, the ROMA has some important spin off benefits, the Gaelic Athletic Association and Western Care are the two beneficiaries of the venture.

William Ryan from Supervalu does not see any problem administering the currency because it is a parity system, one ROMA is equal in value to one pound.

Draper John Forde thinks the currency will bring the community closer together and Parish Priest of Ballyhaunis Joe Cooney is also positive about the ROMA benefits.

It will keep money at home, it will generate business at home and it will be interesting to see over the months period that it is being tested how it works out.

A ‘Nationwide’ report broadcast on 19 July 1999. The reporter is Michael Bance.