As a currency which only truly exists on the internet, Bitcoin is unaffected by national borders and boundaries, and hence has realised the power to influence every internet-connected region. Ireland is one such region. While Ireland has not drawn the same attention to Bitcoin as the US or Russia, Ireland enjoys around 400 active nodes at a time, and is, at the time of writing, the 40th country in terms of active Bitcoin nodes.
Bitcoin may be emerging in Ireland because only a few million people live there, but there have been many occasions where Bitcoin has been used, north and south. The main organisation in Ireland working with Bitcoin is Eircoin, the island’s only major broker. The service accepts orders worth €50 and up, and promises transactions will be processed within an hour, fees are 4.99 percent. Many and maybe more people in Ireland use the German marketplace bitcoin.de, which is with a fee of 0.5 percent significantly cheaper.
Other organisations and individuals in Ireland that have shown interest in Bitcoin include the non-profit Digital Rights Ireland which now accepts the currency for donations, the up-and-coming exchange Circle. Chief executive Jeremy Allaire is planning to increase the number of jobs at its international HQ in Dublin, and the electronics company GSM Solutions, which has become a Bitcoin vendor. Some Irishmen have also been known for their involvement in the Silk Road marketplace, where Bitcoin is traded for often illegal goods As well as a few large ventures, there are many smaller scale adoptions by individuals running traditional businesses. In May last year, a man running a coffee stall in a market documented himself accepting Bitcoin for coffee. While it is not known if anyone bought any coffee with Bitcoin, the community got involved and were able to buy several people a free coffee, stirring up interest. A professional animator based in Dublin known as Zenith Quinn also accepts Bitcoin.
Dublin and its surrounding area enjoy a strong Bitcoin community presence. Bitcoin community events are held a few times a month, with each event enjoying around 50 attendees. Events include workshops where attendees can learn about cryptography and the inner workings of Bitcoin, meetups with major businesses such as the Circle Exchange which use Bitcoin, hackathons, introductory talks, and social events for enthusiasts. The main Bitcoin community organisation is Bitcoin Ireland, the official Irish Bitcoin Association, which promotes Bitcoin businesses, adoption and the Bitcoin industry in Ireland. They maintain a growing list of Bitcoin businesses on their website.
Bitcoin has also been a hot talking point amongst news agencies in Ireland. RTE News, the Irish Examiner, and the Irish Independent have delivered many reports on Bitcoin, its potential, its increased use amongst technology businesses, and the controversy surrounding it amongst central bankers, particularly from the European Union. Ireland has been one of the main victims of the Euro sovereign debt crisis, and shenanigans such as bankers joking amongst each other about the bailouts have prompted a rise in support for Bitcoin and more contempt for the fiat systems which dominate modern economies.
In the future, Bitcoin’s main proponents in Ireland, including Alan Donohoe, who runs both GSM Solutions and the Irish Bitcoin Association, believe that it will come into much increased usage because of its nature as a digital technology. “It is like anything digital, it is taking over what we do. Everything is going digital, so why shouldn’t currencies?” he asks the Irish Examiner. Jeremy Allaire, chief executive of the Circle exchange, believes that Bitcoin’s main selling point is its security and anonymity, and that if a safe exchange system such as his can be implemented, Bitcoin will go from strength to strength. “One of the problems with current systems is security and fraud,” he tells the Irish Independent. “If you think about it, there are lots of people and organisations who you need to share your sensitive financial information with.”
Jeremy continues by highlighting Bitcoin’s systemically advantageous nature. “Sometimes the system fails and banks have to reimburse customers. That’s fine, but it’s really an admission of the system’s failures. Trading in Bitcoin is a much more secure way of doing it, when established.“ Statistically, while Ireland is only the 40th by active Bitcoin nodes, Ireland is 16th in terms of nodes per million people, far outranking the likes of Japan and France, and other countries which have been a victim of the eurozone crisis, such as Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece. Interest has been known to spike significantly during periods of uncertainty regarding the Euro, an effect which can be observed through looking at Google search trends.
In the midst of the potential of Bitcoin, the perceived failure of fiat systems to properly serve economies, and growing tension between governments and citizens in these times of international austerity, many questions about the future remain. Will the efforts of governments be sufficient to ensure prosperity and monetary stability? If there is ever another crisis with the Euro, will Bitcoin assert itself as an alternative to fiat money in Ireland and other Euro country.
The only thing we can know for sure is that the crypto-currency revolution is beginning to take hold, and it remains to be seen how a country like Ireland will face further hardships from the realities of the fiat system, and if it will truly benefit from this maverick technology.
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