Dr. Margaret Downes was born into a family of retailers in Ballina, invaluable experience for when she received her B.Comm from UCD, qualified as an accountant and later became a partner with the firm of Coopers and Lybrand. Her career has been a sequence of superlatives. She was one of the first women to be appointed to the board of a major Irish bank when she was appointed to the Court of Directors of the Bank of Ireland. She was then appointed as Deputy Governor of that board.
She was also the first, and is still the only, woman president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and was President of the Federation of European Accountants. Her list of directorships are many and vary from the Kilkenny Design Workshop in the mid-Seventies to Ardagh, the Mothercare/BHS group, Gallahers and Bupa Ireland. These indicate her substantial status in Irish business.
For many years she was regarded by many in the business and in the media as the foremost Irish businesswoman. Irrespective of her gender, in her own right she has been a leading force in Irish business. It is easy to forget, given current legislation and given the awareness of diversity and inclusiveness, how difficult it was for her to become a leader of the accounting profession. In doing so she was a trail blazer and she paved the way for what many women take for granted in modern Irish business circles. She also has had a long involvement in the arts. She served as trustee of the Chester Beatty Library and director of the Douglas Hyde gallery. She has links with the Irish Museum of Modern Art and has chaired AXA's international piano competition. Margaret Downes has had a distinguished career in Irish business and has served as an important role model for Irish women in business.