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Political outcry over O'Brien and Kenny pictures is a load of bull, claims O'Leary

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HOBBY FARMER: Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary sold 40 Angus cattle for a total of around €80,000 yesterday. Photo: Tony Gavin

HOBBY FARMER: Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary sold 40 Angus cattle for a total of around €80,000 yesterday. Photo: Tony Gavin

HOBBY FARMER: Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary sold 40 Angus cattle for a total of around €80,000 yesterday. Photo: Tony Gavin

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has come to the defence of fellow tycoon Denis O'Brien, saying that he has no problem with the telecoms billionaire posing for photographs with the Taoiseach, despite the adverse findings of the Moriarty tribunal.

Mr O'Brien caused a political furore by posing with Enda Kenny during the St Patrick's Day celebrations in New York last month. Two Labour Party ministers, Joan Burton and Brendan Howlin, and Lucinda Creighton, a Fine Gael junior minister, voiced unease over the proximity of the billionaire to Mr Kenny.

Mr O'Leary yesterday dismissed the reaction as "a storm in a media teacup".

"Look, he had his photograph taken with the Taoiseach in New York. As far as I know he was actually over there promoting job creation in New York, something I don't have a problem with. If that's the best the media can come up with... I think it's a bit ridiculous," he said. "We have far more serious problems."

"I was surprised Denis was on the balcony -- more because he would have something more useful to do with his time than to be arising around in New York getting his photograph taken. I don't have any issue with it.

"He is a very significant investor in Ireland. He is a very significant job creator in Ireland. And I think everyone having a pop at Denis is a storm in media teacup."

Mr O'Leary took a pop at the annual global economic forum, which Mr O'Brien attended as a guest of the Government last October. The airline boss, who turned down two invitations to attend, said the event was a "photo opportunity for politicians".

"If the Government's idea of how to create jobs is a three-day beano where they are getting their photographs taken to get free tickets to Croke Park, that's not how you are going to create jobs. You look at most of the attendees at Farmleigh and they are civil servants and heads of semi-states. They're not going to create jobs," he said.

"If they are serious about it they will get a couple of people into a room quietly and come with some policies that will actually create jobs. If what you want to do is spend three days arsing around getting your photograph taken in Farmleigh House -- that's not for me, thank you."

Mr O'Leary claimed a plan for attracting five million passengers over five years to three main Irish airports will create 5,000 jobs.

"We have a proposal with Government, which to be fair to them they are studying, where we would deliver five million passengers in Cork, Dublin and Shannon airports That on its own would create 5,000 new jobs."

He was speaking after the annual sale of bulls and heifers from his Angus herd at Gigginstown House in Westmeath. Mr O'Leary, who mucked in for the event in wellies and a baseball cap, sold 40 Angus cattle for an average of €2,000 a piece.

"First time ever everything sold, that's an indication of how strong the market is at the moment. We are very happy with that sale. You never make money from breeding cattle in this country. Farmers are generally doing well. Hobby farming is not doing well," said Mr O'Leary, who describes himself as a "hobby" farmer.

The highest bid at yesterday's sale was €4,500 for a bull, while two heifers fetched €4,100 each.

Sunday Independent