Sunday 25 June 2017

Government has a week to call my bluff, says O'Leary

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

"YOU have one week left to call my bluff." That's the final word from Michael O'Leary to the Government on Hangar 6 and the 300 jobs he says he can deliver there if Ryanair secures the facility before an agreement is signed somewhere else in Europe for the low-cost carrier's aircraft maintenance.

And in remarks that will renew pressure on Tanaiste Mary Coughlan to take decisive action, the Ryanair chief pointedly dismissed suggestions from the Government that the jobs he has been promising for former SR Technics aircraft engineers are already gone.

"If the best answer the Government can come up with is that the jobs are already gone, then all I have to say is: call my bluff. You have about a week left. It's clear Mary Coughlan and Brian Cowen would prefer to see 300 engineers on the dole rather than employed. But they could have a massive change of heart over the weekend and make the call. The Government could still order the DAA to tell Aer Lingus to get out of the hangar but they don't seem to care."

Asked if he was glad he attended the Dail's Transport Committee last Wednesday to discuss the Hangar 6 controversy, the Ryanair boss was typically blunt in his dismissal of our elected representatives.

He said: "I'm always glad to go to the Transport Committee. It reminds me of why I would never want to be involved in politics. It also reminds me of going to collect my children from the creche. It's all a bit chaotic and not a lot of them make much sense, with some notable exceptions in there like Shane Ross and Leo Varadkar. The rest of them were talking rubbish." Asked to comment on Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller's revelation at that committee that both Ms Coughlan and Transport Minister Noel Dempsey had phoned him in relation to the Hangar 6 controversy, Mr O'Leary said such an intervention could raise issues of corporate governance.

He said: "I think the interesting thing there is why Mr Mueller seems to be treating one shareholder -- the Government -- differently to other shareholders, which I think might be a company law issue.

"I'm fairly sure if I called him up [as a shareholder in Aer Lingus], I doubt he would receive my phone calls. I think I'd be told by his secretary that he wasn't around. When else does the Tanaiste and the Transport Minister interfere in the management of Aer Lingus?

"I think it clearly raises a company law issue. Is the Government as a 25 per cent shareholder being favoured over all other shareholders?

"If he's receiving multiple phone calls from Government ministers, then it clearly shows the Government is still able to intervene in Aer Lingus.

"The sad thing is that neither the Tanaiste, nor the Transport Minister is able to ask them to vacate Hangar 6, which could have allowed 500 jobs to be created."

Clearly unimpressed with the current coalition's performance, Mr O'Leary concluded by saying: "I think the Government are like rats clinging on to a sinking ship. As their airport policy, and now their jobs policy shows, they're clearly incompetent and they're certainly not capable of working with job creators, which is what we are."

Sunday Independent

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