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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 1 May 1969

Vol. 240 No. 3

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - New Decimal Coinage.


asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the proposed lettering of the planned new decimal coinage is in accord with the rules governing the construction and use of the Irish language.

The letter "p", the first letter of the Irish word "pingin", is used on the new coins as a monetary symbol for the new penny. As such, it is independent of language rules. These rules are, of course, to be followed whenever the value of a coin is written in full or spoken.

Conventions regarding the use of the symbol for the new penny were recommended by the Irish Decimal Currency Board and are set out in Chapter 3 of the board's Bulletin No. 1 entitled "The New Currency System". The Irish version of the bulletin is entitled "An Córas Airgid Reatha Nua". Copies of both versions were circulated to Deputies last September. Copies are also available in the Library.

Does the Minister not agree that it would be incorrect for anybody to describe the coin as "leathpingin" or similarly as "an pingin"? Would he think there is something odd about calling the 10d piece "deich pingin"? The point I am trying to make is that the use of the language in these particulars is contrary to what we have been taught in school.

May I explain? I think the Deputy is confusing two things. If we have the words "deich" and "pingin" written on the coin then those words would have to follow the rules of construction and it would have to be "deich bpingin" but what is involved are a numeral and a symbol. It is the numeral ten for "deich" and a "p" for "pingin". It is not words. The Deputy is trying to apply to symbols rules which apply only to the full language. If you were writing this out in full you would have to write "aon pingin amháin" or "leathphingin". Then ordinary rules of construction would apply, but when you are putting it on a coin——

Suppose you were saying it?

Writing it or saying it, yes, but when you are putting it on a coin, you are using a numeral, the number for half. You do not put "leath" on the coins. You put the numeral and the symbol.

Who made this rule?

This is accepted in monetary practice all over the world.

May I say, as somebody with a cursory acquaintance with numismatics, that it is not?

I think the Deputy is mistaken. If we are using language you must use the proper rules of construction applying to language but here we are not. On the coinage we are dealing with numerals and symbols, not language.

I think that is a distinction without a difference and I consider it a mistake on the part of the designers.

It will not be worth any more.

If Fianna Fáil stay in office it certainly will not.

For anybody interested in this I suggest that they should read Bulletin No. 1 chapter 3 where it sets out the position.

Can the Minister say if this matter was considered by the Arts Council before the decision was made in regard to the design?

We are not talking about the design of the coins; we are talking about the numerals and symbols.

I know. Was the design considered? It is part of it.

The Deputy is asking me about the design——

No, about the numeral and the other symbol.

As regards the symbols to be used, these had nothing to do with the Arts Council.

Or the designs?

I do not know about the designs. The designs were decided on by the Central Bank. I do not know whom they consulted. As regards the symbols and numerals used on the coins, these are dealt with in Bulletin No. 1 chapter 3.

Would the Minister not agree that it does appear that the use of a different form, or what appears to the ordinary public and certainly to myself to be a different form of grammatical construction of Irish must have the effect of confusing the mind, at least of ordinary persons such as myself?

You cannot apply grammatical rules to numerals or symbols. If you were writing out the words "leath-phingin" or "pingin amháin" on the coin then you would apply to the words the normal grammatical rules of language. We are not doing that. We clearly set out in the bulletin that in future the various symbols will be used in various places. We are using a combination of numerals and symbols and grammar does not apply.

There were three grammatical errors in Deputy Dr. O'Connell's attack on Deputy Dunne.

The Minister is a grammatical error.


I suggest that the Minister needs a bit of analysis right now.


And I might be prepared to suggest that Deputy Dunne is a clerical misconception.