Wednesday 24 January 2018

O'Leary: 'Take them out and shoot them'


RYANAIR chief executive Michael O'Leary has vowed to sack the board of Aer Lingus should his €748m bid to buy the former State airline be successful.

While Mr O'Leary has issued an invitation to the serving Aer Lingus chairman Colm Barrington to join the board of Ryanair Holdings as part of his offer to buy out the airline, he makes it clear he will have no need for the services of other Aer Lingus directors if his approach to Aer Lingus is successful.

"They'll all be gone. If you look at the board of Aer Lingus, with a number of notable exceptions, the rest are just like the board of bloody Fas. They're all Bertie's pals, or political appointees or trade union representatives," Mr O'Leary says.

Mr O'Leary refers to them as "Bertie's pals, political appointees or trade union representatives" who know nothing about running an airline.

Rounding off his damning assessment of Aer Lingus's directors, the Ryanair chief, in typically cavalier fashion, calls for the various board members -- with a few notable exceptions -- to be "taken out and shot" describing them as "useless".

Analysis, interview, pages 10 and 14

Special mention is given to ICTU general secretary David Begg and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's close friend and political confidant, Chris Wall, in this regard.

"What does David Begg know about running an airline? He may be a very distinguished trade union leader, but we are talking about running a business here; he hasn't got a clue. Chris Wall -- one of Bertie's hangers on. What does he know about an airline? Nothing," Mr O'Leary concludes.

Elaborating on his comparison with the board of Fas, Mr O'Leary went on: "It's ministers' representatives, the trade union movement, representatives of the aged and the infirm and everything else. You want people there who can actually run an airline and make a contribution. What has their [the board's] contribution been in the last two years? Aer Lingus costs have gone up by 18 per cent per passenger, they've raised the fares, increased the fuel surcharges, all these ministers and government representatives. Just take 'em out and shoot them. Useless."

Elsewhere in his interview with the Sunday Independent, the Ryanair boss calls on the Government to sell off several non-core semi-state assets to shore up the country's ailing finances as the global economic crisis continues to worsen.

On this, Mr O'Leary says both the ESB and Bus Eireann should be part-sold to raise money for the public purse.

"I think one of the real issues this Government is going to have to focus on, particularly with the Budget crisis, is maybe instead of raising taxes again, or maybe instead of cutting health spending or cutting education spending, maybe we take out some of the non-core semi-state assets and say 'why don't we part sell these?'''

While Mr O'Leary doesn't see the need for a 'fire sale' of State assets, he does believe that in the case of the ESB, there is the potential to raise up to €4bn to benefit the economy.

"The ESB is probably worth €7bn or €8bn. You could raise €4bn tomorrow by selling 50 per cent of it, and you could still share in that upside," he said.

On his company's bid for Aer Lingus, the Ryanair boss said the nearly €200m the deal would raise could be used immediately to reinstate the provision of cancer screening and vaccination for 12-year-old girls, which was recently cut by the Government.

On the broader issue of the Government's struggle to contain the economic crisis, Mr O'Leary added: "The Government is dealing with a set of circumstances that are unprecedented, as are the other European governments. The thing is, other European governments are coming up with stimulus packages. This Government will have to do the same. But you can't keep borrowing money."

Asked for his views on proposals for renegotiation of the national wage agreement, Mr O'Leary said the Government must now simply exercise its right to plead inability to pay.

"There's no point in re-negotiating the national wage agreement. The national wage agreement has a clause of 'inability to pay'.

"The Government simply has to explain to the unions as well as the employer groups we don't have an ability to pay.

"You can't add a billion euro to the public sector pay bill next year to give the trade unions a 5 per cent pay increase at a time when inflation will be zero or minus.

"Nobody employed in the private sector is going to get a pay increase next year."

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