Dr. Margaret Downes to be honoured with the 2020 Outstanding Contribution to Accountancy award

Mar 4, 2020

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Margaret Downes, FCA, BCom Hons, DCSG, was the recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Contribution to Accountancy award, sponsored by our professional body partner Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Dr. Downes addressed the crowd at the fifth annual Irish Accountancy Awards ceremony on Wednesday, November 18th, which took place as a live digital awards broadcast.

Dr. Margaret Downes

Born in Ballina, Co Mayo, Dr. Downes married the late Desmond Downes in 1960, also a Chartered Accountant, and has three children (Rachel, Lucy and Alexander) and 3 grandchildren.

She is a leading and hugely respected Irish businesswoman, and among the first ten women to qualify as a Chartered Accountant in Ireland. When she qualified in 1956, a mere 0.1 percent of Chartered Accountants in Ireland were women compared to an estimated 41% (11,685) today.

Throughout her life, Dr. Downes has held several prominent active roles in Ireland’s Corporate, Professional, State, Cultural, Charitable and Church sectors, and her example and career have been an inspiration for many of the female executives who have followed in her wake.


  • She was the first woman Council Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland.
  • She was the first woman President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland in 1983/4. As President of the Institute she was involved in a very public role and advocated for strong corporate governance in corporate life, a commercial ethos in the state sector, and equality for women in business.
  • She oversaw the foundation of the European Federation of Accounting Bodies (F.E.E) and was its first President in 1986.
  • She was the first woman to chair an Irish semi‐state company, Kilkenny Design Workshops.
  • She was the first woman Director of the Bank of Ireland and the first woman to serve on its Court of Directors and to become Deputy Governor of the Bank in 1993.

Career Highlights:


  • Non‐Executive Director of Bank of Ireland (1986 – 2011) and Deputy Governor (1993 – 1995).
  • Non‐Executive Director of Ardagh plc.
  • Founding Chairman of BUPA Ireland which broke the VHI monopoly in healthcare, introducing competition to the Irish market for the first time.
  • Senior Partner with Coopers & Lybrand for 20 years, which subsequently became PricewaterhouseCoopers following a merger with Price Waterhouse in 1998.
  • Chair of Primary Insurance (Ireland) Ltd.
  • Chair of Gallagher Dublin Limited.

United Kingdom

  • Dr. Downes' appointment as Non‐Executive Director of the giant UK retail group Storehouse plc. (including Mothercare plc., BHS Ltd and Habitat plc.) was one of the most significant Board appointments by an Irish person.
  • Non‐Executive Director of British Provident Association Limited (BUPA).
  • Non‐Executive Director of Primary Insurance Group UK.
  • Chair of Mothercare UK pension funds. Chair of BHS UK pension funds.
  • Trustee Habitat UK pension funds.

In addition to her many career achievements, she was conferred the honour of by Pope Benedict XVI in recognition of her work for St Mary’s parish on Dublin’s Haddington Road and the Dublin diocese during the last 40 years.