Monday 19 March 2018

RTE is a 'rat-infested North Korean union shop' - O'Leary's blistering tirade at FG fundraiser

* Sack gardai if they strike, says Ryanair chief
* Also attacks EU, health sector and Dublin City Council
* Noonan praises CEO as leading businessman

Outspoken: Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary called for more competition in business and less corporate tax at a Fine Gael business breakfast Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Outspoken: Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary called for more competition in business and less corporate tax at a Fine Gael business breakfast Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Controversial Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary launched a blistering tirade against public sector workers at a Fine Gael pre-Budget fundraising event, attended by Finance Minister Michael Noonan and three other Cabinet members.

At the €55-a-head business breakfast in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, Mr O'Leary said "immoral" striking gardai should be sacked, and insisted private bus companies be allowed to operate routes during industrial action.

The airline boss also branded RTE a "rat-infested North Korean union shop" before adding: "I can't turn on the bloody 9 O'Clock News without having to see Ingrid Miley's face giving me the latest spew from the Trotskyites and all the rest of it."

The attack on the national broadcaster brought about sustained applause and laughter from the 200-strong audience at the behind-closed-doors invite-only event in the city centre hotel.

Details of Mr O'Leary's comments were confirmed to the Sunday Independent by several sources at the event.

The Ryanair boss joked that he was not invited to Sinn Fein events because they do not want to eat with people they plan to "tax the s**t out of".

Mr Noonan described Mr O'Leary as "Ireland's leading businessman" and "Ireland's leading altogether decent person" when he introduced him to the audience on Wednesday morning.

Then for over 40 minutes and to rapturous applause from those in attendance, the Ryanair chief attacked the public sector, the European Union, the health service and Dublin City Council.

He accused the Dublin local authority of destroying the city centre through "nonsensical pandering to bloody cyclists". He said the State was "really crap at running the health service" and called for it to be privatised.

Mr O'Leary then targeted the European Union, saying it was anti-competition, but said the Government's response to the Apple tax fiasco was "weak and limp-wristed".

The multi-millionaire used the event to push for less tax on business people, insisting it would improve the economy.

Among those present at the fundraising breakfast for Fine Gael's Dublin Bay South branch were Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, Housing Minister Simon Coveney and Education Minister Richard Bruton.

Local TD and Junior Finance Minister Eoghan Murphy has hosted the event in recent years, but was not present as he was on Government business in Washington. However, his constituency colleague Kate O'Connell was present.

International auditing and accountancy firms, along with some of the country's most successful law practices, were among the businesses to fork out for a table of 10 at a cost of €550 each.

The fundraising event was held a week before the Budget as Government ministers were in the middle of negotiations over how to spend the country's finances.

During a questions and answers session, Mr O'Leary was asked about the public service and pending strikes by gardai and bus drivers.

He said he was a "great fan" of gardai and insisted they did a "fantastic job" but said their proposed industrial action was "immoral".

"If somebody doesn't show up to work I'd sack them and if it means we've to sack 4,000 guards, I would sack all 4,000 guards," he said.

"[Former US president] Reagan did it with the air traffic controllers in America in 1987. Sometimes the State has to stand up and say 'sorry, you're the army, you're the guards, you knew you couldn't go on strike when you joined'," he added.

He also criticised the early retirement policy in An Garda Siochana which allows gardai retire when they are aged 50.

"Why aren't you working till you're 65, and we'll also promote you to be deputy inspector or something in the last year of your employment so you get higher bloody pensions for the rest of your life, which you don't contribute or pay for, that we do," he said.

He also questioned why Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann union chiefs sought meetings with Transport Minister Shane Ross over pay when they should be seeking to talk with company managers.

Mr O'Leary insisted the Government should open up bus routes to private operators if drivers go on strike again.

"If they don't want to work let somebody else do their jobs, let's allow more competition, let's continue to roll out more competition, let's make Ireland even more competitive," he added.

Yesterday a spokesman for Ryanair said: "Michael spoke at a business breakfast for Fine Gael during the week and will be speaking at one for Fianna Fail in November."

Sunday Independent

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