Westport introduces the Reek an alternative currency that can be used to pay for local goods and services.
In the Mayo town of Westport the Reek is a new form of independent currency Launched by Meitheal na Mart the cooperative to promote trade and barter between members Reeks can only be used and accepted in Westport and must be spent locally.
The Westport experiment is part of a worldwide movement known as Local Enterprise Trading (LETS) and there are 30 similar groups in Ireland.
Dr Lucille O’Shea of Meitheal na Mart explains that 20 Reeks is equivalent to one pound. Ben Ryan of Meitheal na Mart says,
It is not an alternative to cash it’s a great supplement to it, particularly where cash is short.
Signwriter John Molloy is a lone parent and the local currency system enables him to carry out work that does not affect his social welfare payments. It gives him earning power within the local economy. His Reeks tare used to buy items that otherwise he may not be able to afford.
It does make a genuine difference.
Meetje O’Sullivan of Meithal Na Mart says the local system expands on the barter system that used involve two people.
But here if you do something for somebody and you get Reeks, you can choose between 150 different services.
Mariculture specialist Neill Herriott has built up Reeks from selling shellfish and carrying out labouring work. He is using his surplus Reeks to get his car windscreen wipers repaired.
Meitheal na Mart has its own computerised banking system to control the daily dealings in Westport’s Reeks and there is a register of services available with the associated price listed in Reeks. Chairman of Meithal Na Mart John O’Dowd says while the system may seem difficult initially, people find it is easy to use.
Meithal na Mart Co-ordinator Paiul Cassidy denies the Reek is a glorified game of Monopoly as it fosters genuine human interaction between the participants in the experiment.
A ‘Nationwide’ report broadcast on 15 January 1995. The reporter is Jim Fahy.