TH€ PUNT: Rich pickings for conspiracists
THE Punt loves a conspiracy as much as the next nutcase but has never been able to get too excited about the annual Bilderberg conference, which is regularly billed as "highly secretive" and somehow "sinister" in the foreign media.
Those journalists and commentators who object to being shut out of the deliberations of the rich and famous should come to Ireland where the Establishment is so secretive that it makes the Bilderbergers look like paragons of transparency.
It may well be the comparative open-ness that explains the absence of almost any Irishman at the latest Bilderberg conference, which kicked off in a stately hotel in the English town of Watford yesterday.
To be sure, Dubliner Peter Sutherland is on the guest list, but there is nobody else to fly the tricolour.
Michael Noonan has previously made time for the conference but the 70-year-old Finance Minister has either decided he is too old for this sort of malarkey these days or has better things to be doing.
He is not alone. Unlike Davos, which played host to around 50 heads of state, this year's Bilderberg guest list is noticeably thin when it comes to men and women who still have their hands on the levers of power.
There are a few billionaire executives from multinational companies such as Amazon and Google, and a few high-ranking political figures including UK Chancellor George Osborne, but most of those attending have been retired for some time. Still, that did not stop British Labour MP Michael Meacher from denouncing poor Peter Sutherland for his role as one of the four men who organise the conference these days.
Speaking near the hotel gates, Mr Meacher said: "They are the leaders of the biggest banks, the biggest multinational companies, people from the UN institutions like the World Bank, World Trade Organisation, several EU commissioners and several politicians from the US, Canada, the UK and the EU."
Quite why that is a problem is anyone's guess.
Flight of fancy for airline chief
IT SEEMS that Ryanair's approach to business has now pervaded every part of its senior executives' psyche.
Speaking at Engineers Ireland's annual conference, the airline's deputy chief executive, Michael Cawley, applauded the audience for "having the same attitude to punctuality as Ryanair".
"But we'd have everyone seated by now or else they'd be paying for the next flight!" said Michael O'Leary's right-hand man.
Like his boss, Mr Cawley is not known for holding his tongue. He came down hard on Pat Rabbitte and the Government, saying "we're deluding ourselves" if we think the 400,000 Irish people living abroad have any intention of coming back.
Still he has obviously felt the sting of negative media coverage himself, introducing his airline as "misunderstood".
The straight-talking Mr Cawley tried to paint a positive picture of the heavily criticised carrier.
He said it treated and paid its pilots and staff better than the market average and that Ryanair pilots here fly just 900 hours a year – 18 hours a week – as opposed to the 1,000 hours a year flown by US pilots.
He presented a survey of 10,000 Ryanair passengers which found that 93pc would fly with the airline again, and that 87pc were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the service.
Still, The Punt has to ask – what about the other 13pc?