Ryanair PR boss denies accusing Davison of racism
Published 25/05/2011 | 05:00
THE head of communications at Ryanair has denied calling former Miss World Rosanna Davison a racist in a press release.
The company's release in November 2008 criticised remarks made by Ms Davison after no Irish girls featured in a Ryanair charity calendar of scantily clad female cabin crew.
Stephen McNamara told the High Court yesterday that the release posted by him on the Ryanair website was not an attack on Ms Davison herself but rather on her comments.
It was "pretty juvenile" for her to take High Court proceedings for defamation over it, he said.
Mr McNamara was giving evidence in the continuing action by Ms Davison (27), of Cornelscourt, Dublin. She claims that the release defamed her in that it wrongly implied she was racist, xenophobic and jealous.
Ryanair denies defamation, denies that the release contains the alleged meanings and pleads that it was "fair comment" in response to matters of public interest.
Mr McNamara denied suggestions that the release was an "unjustified", "unprovoked" and "vicious" attack on Ms Davison.
It was issued to ensure people were aware Ms Davison's comments were unjustified and to ensure sales of the calendar were not damaged, he said.
He denied he was trying to be "smart" in his replies to correspondence with her solicitors in which he described her remarks as "stupid" and "ill-considered".
"I would never claim to be smart," he said.
Ms Davison's father, singer Chris De Burgh, had threatened to sue him and he may have been "defensive" as a result of being threatened with legal action by "wealthy and well-known persons".
The court heard that an Irish Independent journalist asked Ms Davison what she thought of the absence of any Irish cabin crew in the calendar.
She said she was correctly quoted the next day as saying: "If I was (organising) it, I would have made sure that Irish women were involved because it's an Irish charity and Irish fundraising.
"Any person from any part of Europe would say that Irish women are gorgeous."
The following day, Ryanair posted the release, which stated that the airline "hit back" at comments made by Ms Davison, which "bordered on racism and demonstrated an elitist attitude against Ryanair's international cabin crew".
Yesterday, Mr McNamara told his counsel Martin Hayden SC that he issued the release because he was concerned the comments from Ms Davison could negatively impact on the calendar and he wanted to defend the crew involved.
The calendar was a voluntary initiative of cabin crew, Ryanair paid for it and applications for inclusion from cabin crew had increased throughout its four-year history, he said.
There was no exclusion of Irish staff but it would be wrong to include an Irish person just because Ryanair was registered here.
Under cross-examination, he disagreed that Ms Davison's comments were moderate and uncontroversial.
Her suggestion that more Irish women would have been included if she were involved in the calendar was putting one country before another, he said. She was also insinuating that Irish women were potentially more gorgeous than those in the calendar.
Ms Davison's comments, as reported, still suggested she was jealous, were narrow-minded and bordering on racism, he said.
The cross-examination of Mr McNamara continues today.