Saturday 3 December 2016

RTE news chief Kevin Bakhurst responds to Michael O'Leary's 'rat-infested North Korean union shop' comments

Philip Ryan and Denise Calnan

Published 09/10/2016 | 14:55

RTÉ's Deputy Director-General has responded to Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary's comments in which he described the national broadcaster as a "rat-infested North Korean union shop".

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Kevin Bakhurst, who also holds the job title of RTÉ News & Current Affairs Managing Director, wrote three tweets on Sunday afternoon.

Michael O'Leary's comments, which were made at a Fine Gael party fundraiser, made the front pages of two Sunday newspapers.

He launched the blistering tirade against public sector workers at a Fine Gael pre-Budget fundraising event, attended by Finance Minister Michael Noonan and three other Cabinet members.

At the €55-a-head business breakfast in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, Mr O'Leary said "immoral" striking gardai should be sacked, and insisted private bus companies be allowed to operate routes during industrial action.

The airline boss branded RTE a "rat-infested North Korean union shop" before adding: "I can't turn on the bloody 9 O'Clock News without having to see Ingrid Miley's face giving me the latest spew from the Trotskyites and all the rest of it."

For over 40 minutes and to rapturous applause from those in attendance, the Ryanair chief attacked the public sector, the European Union, the health service and Dublin City Council.

He accused the Dublin local authority of destroying the city centre through "nonsensical pandering to bloody cyclists". He said the State was "really crap at running the health service" and called for it to be privatised.

Mr O'Leary then targeted the European Union, saying it was anti-competition, but said the Government's response to the Apple tax fiasco was "weak and limp-wristed".

The multi-millionaire used the event to push for less tax on business people, insisting it would improve the economy.

Kevin Bakhurst
Kevin Bakhurst

Among those present at the fundraising breakfast for Fine Gael's Dublin Bay South branch were Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, Housing Minister Simon Coveney and Education Minister Richard Bruton.

Today, Mr Bakhurst replied to the comments, writing: "Re M O'Leary comments: 1. Our coverage is based on the core principles of public service broadcasting-fairness, accuracy and impartiality.

"2. RTÉ's coverage of business leaders, unions and workers is wholly fair and even-handed.

"3. I find attacking individual journalists in this way extremely disappointing."

Outspoken: Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary called for more competition in business and less corporate tax at a Fine Gael business breakfast Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Outspoken: Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary called for more competition in business and less corporate tax at a Fine Gael business breakfast Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Yesterday a spokesman for Ryanair said: "Michael spoke at a business breakfast for Fine Gael during the week and will be speaking at one for Fianna Fail in November."

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