Thursday 27 November 2014

High-flier may ruffle feathers

Published 14/12/2012 | 05:00

"Bemusement and amusement" was how a source at the Department of Transport greeted Julie O'Neill's appointment yesterday to the Ryanair board.

The former head of the Department of Transport, O'Neill held the secretary general role between 2002 and 2009 and was there when Aer Lingus floated on the stock market.

She's been described as having been well regarded during her tenure there.

And while Ryanair's Michael O'Leary has been asked a number of times in the past why the company has no women on its board, the appointment of O'Neill has certainly raised eyebrows.

She has probably come too late to the party to have any real ability to impact Ryanair's efforts to persuade mandarins in Brussels to allow it to proceed with efforts to acquire Aer Lingus.

And with O'Leary having made plain his opinion on Transport Minister Leo Varadkar last week, one could assume that O'Neill could be useful in any bridge-building exercises with the department.

But let's face it, O'Leary is hardly one to worry much about reconciliation.

O'Neill was in hot water at the department when it emerged in 2007 that she knew about an Aer Lingus decision to axe a Shannon-Heathrow service weeks before she informed then Transport Minister Noel Dempsey.

Still, however O'Neill advises the Ryanair board as a member, she'll no doubt have some keen insights.

Irish Independent

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