Judge lets fly at apologetic O'Leary over 'pathetic' lie
A HIGH Court judge ordered Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary to take his hand out of his pocket while swearing on the Bible to give evidence in court yesterday.
The airline chief also apologised unreservedly to the judge over a "lie" in a letter to the Transport Minister.
The letter alleged Mr Justice Peter Kelly publicly criticised Noel Dempsey over "inexcusable" delays in setting up an appeal panel against proposed new charges at Dublin Airport. The allegation was "a lie", the judge said.
Mr Justice Kelly said yesterday he found it "offensive" and of "grave concern" that he had been seriously misrepresented in a material way in a letter from the Ryanair CEO to Mr Dempsey on February 25 last.
Mr O'Leary had attempted to justify his claim by a "pathetic" and "wholly unbelievable" reference to quotations from the court transcript in which the judge referred to discrepancies in laws allowing for appeals against decisions of the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR).
He never criticised Mr Dempsey over delays, "inexcusable or otherwise", and Mr O'Leary should not have put the matter as he had, the judge said.
However, because Mr O'Leary had apologised to the court and had undertaken to write a letter of apology to Mr Dempsey, stating his remarks about the judge were wrong, he would not take the matter further.
Given other incorrect statements by Ryanair, the judge added he wanted to see Mr O'Leary's draft letter of apology to Mr Dempsey by next Tuesday before that letter was sent.
Mr O'Leary was lucky the matter was not treated as contempt of court, the judge said. It was "a very poor state of affairs" when a CEO of a public limited company took it on himself to write to a government minister seriously misrepresenting the court.
The judge awarded costs on the highest level against Ryanair of proceedings arising from claims by CAR that Ryanair had seriously mislead the court in affidavits.
The proceedings arose after CAR last month sought to fast-track in the Commercial Court Ryanair's proposed judicial review challenge to a December 4 decision fixing the maximum charges the Dublin Airport Authority may levy at Dublin Airport over a five-year period.
Ryanair appealed against the charges to a panel set up by the minister and also wants to challenge them via judicial review.
Mr O'Leary said he was unaware two affidavits had been sworn for the proceedings at the time they were sworn.
He agreed the assertion that Mr Dempsey had not yet decided to form the appeal panel was untrue as he had written to Mr O'Leary on January 19 saying he intended to set up a panel after the three-month period for lodging appeals had expired.
He said neither the company's solicitor nor Ryanair's head of legal affairs were aware of Mr Dempsey's letter when those affidavits were sworn. There was no intention by Ryanair to mislead the court, he added.
Mr O'Leary also admitted he had issued, on March 5 last, a press release strongly criticising the minister, whom he described as "dozy Dempsey", over not setting up the panel.