'A job in the bank' is nothing to be proud of now
It used to be a post that guaranteed social status but now it's a byword for greed and corruption, says Brendan O'Connor
Forget your internet, your mobile phone, your texting, your ready meals, your Ikea; one of the most fundamental shifts in our world in recent years is exhibited in today's Sunday Independent opinion poll. There is one figure alone that demonstrates how our world has completely turned upside down: 91 per cent of people want to see criminal prosecutions brought against bankers.
Bankers. Cast your mind back to before 'bankers' became a dirty word and consider the phrase we used to use for bankers. They were someone who got 'a job in the bank'. Was there anything more respectable than 'a job in the bank'?
For any Irish mother 'a job in the bank' was the next best thing to becoming a priest. Now, being a banker is the next worst thing to being a priest.
For most of us, the guy who got 'a job in the bank' was the ultimate nerd. Joining the civil service was like becoming a stripper compared to 'a job in the bank'. You remember them, don't you? They went in at 18 when the rest of us were packing off to college for four years of faux bohemianism. They had shirts and ties when the rest of us had tie-dyed T-shirts. While we were kicking against the system, they were the system.
They were polite, safe young people who seemed to become middle-aged before their time. They married early to other polite middle-aged young people and they were ready then to move around the country from Killybegs to Killarney, showing due respect to Mrs Murphy's passbook and never being seen drunk in public.
Some of them, at a certain point, made manager and thus became a pillar of the local community. They helped with the collection plate at Mass, they were stalwarts of the golf club and even their children seemed perfect and middle-aged. They were universally liked, if not exactly loved. And, of course, they had great mortgages back when not everyone could get a mortgage. They were the perfect symbols of the new suburban Ireland. Did we ever think that this most conservative and affable of species would bring all of us down with them?
It's hard to say when we, and they, lost our innocence. But the fall from grace has been deep and painful. When we think of bankers now we think of greedy, grabbing crooks. Some of them even became unimaginably wealthy for a time. While the rest of us were slightly looking down on people who worked in the bank for their lack of imagination, they were imagining up all kinds of practices that would ultimately ruin the country.
And last week, the cruellest irony. The safe, secure 'job in the bank' is no more, as 750 of them went from BOSI and we are told there will be thousands more jobs lost in other banks. It's sad. And you can guarantee it's even sadder for the person working behind the counter.
So when you go into your branch, be nice. Remember all they ever wanted was 'a job in the bank'.