Banknotes of Northern Ireland

Banknotes of Northern Ireland

Banknotes have been issued for use specifically in Northern Ireland since 1929, and are denominated in pounds sterling. They are legal currency in Northern Ireland but technically not legal tender in any other country in the United Kingdom (or other territories which use sterling)[1]. However, the banknotes are still widely accepted as currency by larger merchants and institutions elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Issuing banks have been granted legal rights to issue currency, and back the notes with deposits at the Bank of England.

The issuing of banknotes in Northern Ireland is regulated by the Currency and Banknotes Act 1928, the Coinage Act 1971, Banknotes (Ireland) Act 1864 (c. 78), Banknotes (Ireland) Act 1920 (c. 24), Bankers (Ireland) Act 1845, Bankers (Northern Ireland) Act 1928 (c. 15), among others. Pursuant to some of these statutes, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs publishes in the Belfast Gazette an account of "the Amount of Notes authorised by Law to be issued by the several Banks of Issue in Northern Ireland, and the Average Amount of Notes in Circulation, and of Bank of England Notes and Coin held"; see for example Issue 6800 published on the 8 September 2006 at page 5874. [2]



Bank of Ireland 1929-
Belfast Banking Company 1929-1968
National Bank 1929-1959
Northern Bank 1929-
Provincial Bank of Ireland 1929-1981
Allied Irish Bank 1982-1993
First Trust Bank 1994-
Ulster Bank 1929-

The Provincial Bank of Ireland was renamed the Allied Irish Bank in 1982, and then became the First Trust Bank in 1994, when AIB merged its Northern Ireland operations with those of TSB.


Notes were initially issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pounds. Of these denominations, only the 1 pound has ceased to be issued, with the last produced by the Allied Irish Bank in 1984.

Bank of Ireland notes

A £5 Sterling note issued by Bank of Ireland in Northern Ireland

Until April 2008, all Bank of Ireland notes featured the Queen's University of Belfast on the reverse side. A new series of £5, £10 and £20 notes was issued in May 2008, all featuring an illustration of the Old Bushmills Distillery, and these notes will gradually replace the previous series.[1][2]

The various denominations are differentiated by their colour and size:

  • 5 pound note, blue
  • 10 pound note, pink
  • 20 pound note, green
  • 50 pound note, blue-green.

First Trust Bank notes

A £100 First Trust Bank note.

First Trust Bank is a subsidiary of the Allied Irish Banks (AIB). It was formed by the 1991 merger of AIB with TSB Northern Ireland. AIB was the successor to the Provincial Bank of Ireland following another merger. The banknotes issued by First Trust Bank continue the series originally issued by the Provincial Bank of Ireland and subsequently by Allied Irish Banks.

First Trust Bank's current notes depict two generic people, one male, one female. They appear as children on the £1 and £5 notes, as middle-aged on the £10 and £20, and finally as elderly on the £50 and £100. The obverse designs generally feature images associated with the Spanish Armada, commemorating the wrecking of 24 Armada ships off the coast of County Antrim in 1588:[3][4]

  • 10 pound note featuring the ship Girona
  • 20 pound note featuring the chimney at Lacada Point, Giant's Causeway, near Dunluce, County Antrim, where the Girona was wrecked
  • 50 pound note featuring a commemorative medal
  • 100 pound note featuring the Spanish Armada

A £5 note featuring Dunluce Castle on the obverse and a £1 note also featuring the Girona were issued by the Provincial Bank of Ireland and by AIB, but have not been issued by First Trust Bank.

Northern Bank notes

Northern Bank, previously a subsidiary of the Midland Bank and subsequently National Australia Bank, is now owned by Danske Bank. Most Northern Bank banknotes depcit a range of notable people associated with industry in Northern Ireland on the obverse. The reverse of each note has an illustration of the portico of Belfast City Hall, sculpted by F. W. Pomeroy.

A £20 Northern Bank note (this version was withdrawn in 2005).
A current £20 Northern Bank note.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK to have issued a plastic banknote. This is the Northern Bank's Year 2000 commemorative £5 banknote, which was printed in Australia.

Following the theft of £22 million from its money handling centre in Belfast on 22 December 2004, allegedly by the Provisional IRA, Northern Bank announced on 7 January 2005 that all its notes were to be recalled and reissued in different colours and styles, and using the bank's new logo. The reissue began on 14 March 2005 and was scheduled to take one month; old notes remain exchangeable at branches of Northern Bank. See Northern Bank robbery.

The principal colours of Northern Bank notes of greater than £5 face value were changed with the 2005 reissue, and are now (former colour in brackets):

  • £10 green (brown)
  • £20 blue (purple)
  • £50 purple (green)
  • £100 red (black)

The logo displayed on these new notes is now itself out of date. The current logo is taken from Northern's new parent company, Danske Bank.

Ulster Bank notes

A £20 Ulster Bank note.
A commemorative Ulster Bank note. The other side is similar to the standard five pound note

Ulster Bank's current notes all share a rather plain design of a view of Belfast harbour flanked by landscape views; the design of the reverse is dominated by the bank's coats-of-arms. The principal difference between the denominations is their colour and size. Notes issued from January 1 2007 feature the bank's new logo, similar to the Royal Bank of Scotland Group logo. It appears beside the bank's name, which appears in a different typeface, and in the place of the NatWest chevron foil device.

In November 2006 Ulster Bank issued its first commemorative banknote - an issue of one million £5 notes commemorating the first anniversary of the death of Northern Irish footballer, George Best. This was the first Ulster Bank banknote to incorporate their new logo, similar to the logo of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, and the entire issue was taken by collectors within hours of becoming available in bank branches.

See also


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