Sunday 25 February 2018

Mary Kenny: Old Protestant virtues can help us through this economic crisis

Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

When I was a young feminist, in the early 1970s, I gave my late brother James a lecture about the fact that Bank of Ireland -- where he worked -- had never had a woman member of the board. "And women are 50pc of the population." He countered that Bank of Ireland had never had a Catholic member of the board either. "And Catholics are 95pc of the population."

Yes, indeed, that was the way it used to be in many areas of banking and mercantile affairs. Irish Protestants were widely regarded as the safest pair of hands in running anything to do with money. We would now consider this sectarian, but in traditional Ireland, it was more like a division of labour: the Catholics did the politics, and the Protestants did the business.

The big businesses in Dublin -- such as Guinness, Jameson and Jacobs -- were traditionally Protestant in senior management, and far from people generally complaining about this, it was considered a great thing for a Catholic to get hired at all.

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