Brexit vote persuaded Francesca McDonagh to make Irish move

Bank of Ireland chief is granddaughter of Irish immigrants to Britain

Francesca McDonagh took over the top job at Bank of Ireland last October. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Francesca McDonagh took over the top job at Bank of Ireland last October. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill


Bank of Ireland’s UK-born chief executive, Francesca McDonagh, has signalled in her first public speech less than five months in the role that Brexit influenced her decision to move to Ireland.

“It disappoints me deeply to see the country of my birth is still struggling to come to terms with the inconvenient truth that - in the history of the developed world - no country has prospered economically, socially or culturally by turning in rather than looking out,” Ms McDonagh said at the speech at the Dublin Chamber annual general meeting dinner in Dublin on Thursday.

“And one country that really understands this is Ireland. You are a shining example of the benefits of being open and outward looking. Indeed, this was one of the reasons why I wanted to live here.”

Ms McDonagh, whose paternal grandparents hailed from Ireland, is among a surge of UK residents to have applied for Irish passports since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, amid concerns that they may lose the right to live in work in the European Union without restrictions when the UK exits the union next year.

As of mid-December, some 162,000 Irish passport applications had been made from Britain and Northern Ireland in 2017, almost twice as many as in 2014.


Ms McDonagh, who is expected to announce Bank of Ireland’s first shareholder dividend in a decade when she presents her first set of results at the group on February 26th, also told the Dublin Chamber gathering on Thursday that banks need to do more to restore trust and engender diversity.

The former HSBC executive took over the helm of Bank of Ireland last October as public and political uproar over the country’s tracker-mortgage scandal intensified. Ms McDonagh presided over a move by the bank in November to acknowledge an additional 6,000 affected customers to whom it had previously denied redress. That brought the bank’s total number of affected customers to 14,500, including 5,100 dealt with in 2010.

The “relationship of trust - which is essential to how we do business - has been shaken in recent times,” Ms McDonagh said on Thursday. “This is something we need to fix.”

Ms McDonagh also said that the banking sector has been “slow to recognise the value of diversity” and that she was “committed to building a culture within Bank of Ireland that respects and values diversity - in all its forms.”