O'Leary: my prayers for all those living with cancer
RYANAIR chief Michael O'Leary has said those suffering from cancer and their families are in his thoughts and prayers following the recent death of his father, Ted, from the illness.
"Like a lot of those dealing with cancer, he survived for about six months. The end wasn't particularly pretty, so it was a relief to him and to the rest of the family. But what we've gone through is no different to what many families around the country are dealing with. Those families in my thoughts and prayers," Mr O'Leary told the Sunday Independent when asked if his father's demise had caused him to stop and take stock of his own life and career.
The Ryanair boss -- who turned 50 this year -- said he expects to lead the low-cost airline for another "two or three years" before handing over the reins to a successor.
Asked if he and Ryanair had identified the hugely successful airline's next chief executive, Mr O'Leary said: "We have at least six or seven internal candidates who could fill my shoes tomorrow. We should also look outside as well."
But judging by the considerable energy with which the Ryanair boss is now pursuing the new Government over its decision to retain the €3 travel tax, anyone with ambitions to fill his shoes will need to present some serious credentials.
For while he says he has been personally impressed with Transport Minister Leo Varadkar so far, he is less than impressed with the minister's seeming dismissal of Ryanair's call for the scrapping of the travel tax as one of the "games" that the airlines play.
"I don't understand why people characterise this as a game. Ryanair is the fastest growing airline in Europe. We have lots of European governments and airports giving us discounts and encouraging us to grow and we're growing in their countries," he said.
"What we're trying to do is demonstrate to this minister (Leo Varadkar) that there is a better way. This (the travel tax) is the failed model.
"Sadly, all we've had from the Department of Transport is more of the same, and more of the same isn't going to work in this country."
Commenting on the broader economic challenge facing Ireland, the Ryanair boss said the Government needs to tackle the fiscal deficit as a matter of urgency.
"The banking thing can be dealt with. It's a known phenomenon. We have a fiscal deficit of €18bn a year. They say 'burn bondholders'. You can't burn bondholders because we're going to need to go back and borrow another €18bn next year.
"We need to limit the fiscal deficit. And that's through a combination of very significant cutting of public waste in the public service, and we've also got to raise some taxation."
Mr O'Leary called also for the terms of the EU/IMF programme to be implemented sooner rather than later, saying: "If you read the programme, there's a lot of very good stuff. I would like to think the new Government will follow it.
"They've been in power for six months and done a lot of talking. A lot of that talk has been positive but it needs more action. The Croke Park Agreement continues, which embeds monstrous inefficiencies.
"FAS fellas take 70 days' holidays so they can acquaint themselves with doing nothing. That stuff should just be ended. If they don't like it, let them strike. You wouldn't notice if somebody in FAS was on strike anyway."