Why I have to close my account and switch to a more ethical bank

WE DON’T moralise, says a spokesperson for the Bank of Ireland. So in the name of turning a euro, it’s legitimate for the bank to support the sex industry — an industry that for the most part exploits vulnerable women for vast profits worldwide.

The industry is estimated to be worth €100 million in Ireland alone.

The bank has put up €25.2m to ensure the success of a string of pornographic magazines with titles such as Asian Babes, Horny Housewives and Mega Boobs.

Can the bank be serious? With a positive policy towards attracting women female students, women in business and mothers the Bank of Ireland appears to have built up a strong female clientele (there are no specific figures available from the bank's HQ).

Its decision to give financial backing to allow a company enter the pornographic magazine market flies in the face of this drive to attract more women. It's also deeply insulting to its existing clientele male and female. Of course it's entirely legal for the bank to get involved with the pornographic magazine industry. But what about ethical business?

It is now common for international businesses to follow an ethical code of practice so that all dealings respect and value human rights. It's a practice that seems lost on Bank of Ireland.

Let's get something straight: the idea of a happy hooker, a la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, is a well-polished myth. Women in the sex industry are nearly always the victims of abuse: physical and emotional.

Then there's the addiction to drugs mostly, cocaine and heroin and poverty. At a recent talk in Cork for International Women's Day, RTÉ crime correspondent Paul Reynolds and author of Sex in the City (Pan Books), spoke about his experience of interviewing women in the sex industry. "Look into their eyes," he said, "and what you see is a deadness."

Nearly all these women have been abused in some way either sexual abuse or at the hands of their partners. "An estimated 90%-95% of women get involved because of abuse, addiction and poverty," said Mr Reynolds.

Like lap dancing clubs, pornographic magazines are the thin edge of the wedge. Turn to the advertising pages of any of these magazines and you will find listings for brothels, sex websites and telephone lines. Many, if not most, women in this soft-focus end of the sex market go on to full-time prostitution and a lifetime of dependence on a pimp for their bread, butter and drugs.

I've been a customer of the Bank of Ireland for over 10 years. It's a relationship I never gave much attention to. My parents were clients and had always found the staff helpful. It was a simple recommendation and, like different petrol stations, there seemed to be little between the main banks.

This is no longer the case. I am shocked and offended to read that the bank with which I do business is in any way involved in the porn magazine market.

I called my bank manager to talk things over. He took my point and explained he couldn't comment on the bank's deal with Remnant Media.

He said he would pass my comments along the line. He said he would be very sorry to lose my account due to the story in yesterday's Irish Examiner. However, unless the bank does a U-turn, I have no choice but to close my account and switch to a more ethical bank.

Indeed it's hard to imagine how any woman, or any 21st century man, could continue to do business with a bank that has got into bed with the sex industry.

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