McCreevy offered job by Ryanair while still in EU post
Greens' chief says move 'not in public interest'
Published 29/04/2010 | 05:00
Former EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy was approached regarding a non-executive director position at Ryanair well over a month before he formally stepped down from his top Brussels role, the Irish Independent has learned.
Well-placed sources told this newspaper yesterday that Mr McCreevy had been sounded out before Christmas regarding the planned role, even as he was still working in an official capacity as the EU's Internal Market and Services Commissioner. He retired from that post in February having held it since 2004.
It emerged on Tuesday that Mr McCreevy's plan to join the Ryanair board is being closely scrutinised by the European Commission's (EC) ethics committee, which obliges a former commissioner undertaking a new job within a year of leaving office to "behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance . . . of certain appointments or benefits".
Green Party chairman Dan Boyle yesterday denounced the move by Mr McCreevy to join the Ryanair board, saying he believed it was not in the public interest.
Mr McCreevy has been a fan of Ryanair for years, having described it in 2006 as a "phenomenal" company. The praise for the low-cost airline, which is headed by Michael O'Leary, came as the EC was due to examine Ryanair's first takeover bid for Aer Lingus. That bid, and a later second one, failed.
"On so many fronts Ryanair has been a phenomenal success story," Mr McCreevy said at the time. "It has transformed people's lives, transformed business opportunities, even attitudes."
Mr O'Leary has previously described the EC as an "evil empire" and labelled EU commissioners "morons".
Neither Mr McCreevy nor his EU department were involved in any of the seven investigations, some of them on-going, into Ryanair by the European Commission.
Those investigations have focused on whether Ryanair received financial incentives from local authorities to operate from certain airports, that could be construed as state-aid.
Ryanair won a major victory in 2008 when the European Court of First Instance overturned a 2004 determination by the EC to ban a subsidy the airline had been receiving in Belgium for operating services from Charleroi airport.
Last month, Air France launched a major legal battle against Ryanair, accusing it of receiving €660m a year in subsidies from the public purse across Europe. Air France wants the subsidies to stop. Ryanair dismissed the challenge.
Mr McCreevy's European contacts are likely to be of significant help to Ryanair, which is the continent's largest low-cost carrier.
A Ryanair spokesman continued to decline to answer questions yesterday about Mr McCreevy's planned arrival in the airline's boardroom, or whether any existing board members are planning to retire.
Mr McCreevy was not contactable for comment yesterday.