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'A simplistic, lazy view' - Charlie Flanagan hits out at Michael O'Leary in race storm

Ryanair chief sparks Muslim-profiling row

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Michael O'Leary: Criticised for comments on terror threat. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Michael O'Leary: Criticised for comments on terror threat. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Michael O'Leary: Criticised for comments on terror threat. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has criticised as "simplistic" and "lazy" comments by Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary that terrorists "will generally be males of a Muslim persuasion".

Mr O'Leary has been heavily criticised for remarks made in an interview with The Times where he said families with young children should be waved through airport security because there was "virtually zero chance of them being bombers".

The airline has since claimed the headline on the article - 'Airline boss wants extra checks on Muslim men' - is "simply inaccurate".

Mr O'Leary told the newspaper in an interview: "Who are the bombers? They are going to be single males travelling on their own. If you are travelling with a family of kids, on you go; the chances you are going to blow them all up is zero.

"You can't say stuff, because it's racism, but it will generally be males of a Muslim persuasion. Thirty years ago it was the Irish. If that is where the threat is coming from, deal with the threat."

Yesterday morning, referring to the story in The Times, Ryanair said: "The headline in today's paper is simply inaccurate. No call for extra checks on any group or persons was made.

"Michael was only calling for more effective airport security checks which would do away with much of the unnecessary queues at airport security today for all passengers. He apologises sincerely for any offence caused to any group by today's inaccurate headline."

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Flanagan said: "Comments such as those reported would reflect a simplistic even lazy view of international affairs to which I don't subscribe."

The head imam of the Islamic Centre of Ireland, Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, said Mr O'Leary's comments were "very irresponsible" in the current climate.

"We're being profiled already. I am concerned for young Muslim men growing up in a society in which societal figures can make such irresponsible comments," he said.

"In the current climate of anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia on the right, to give general statements like this is disappointing because it tarnishes the whole community and justifies racism and discrimination against the community.

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"Terrorism is not only confined to one community. We find extremist elements in every community - recently a white German killed nine innocent people in Germany.

"I'm a frequent traveller. I fly frequently with Aer Lingus and Ryanair. Already as Muslims, particularly single men, we have to go through many checks when we travel. This has been going on for a number of years."

Dr Al-Qadri did not rule out a boycott of Ryanair but said he accepted Mr O'Leary's apology.

A spokeswoman for the Muslim Council of Britain said the remarks were the "very definition of Islamophobia", adding: "Michael O'Leary should be under no illusion: his comments are racist and discriminatory."

The businessman also criticised millennials when asked for his thoughts on gender fluidity, adding it was only a matter of time until his male air stewards started "wearing skirts".

"It's the way of the world," he said. "We are Europe's largest airline carrying many millions of millennials, so we have to pander to all that nonsense."

Mr O'Leary also raised concerns about obesity but said problems were worse in the US and the UK. "If you have complete monsters you may need to buy two seats," he said, "But we are not in Europe the way they are in North America, where it's a huge issue."


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