An inconvenient truth for the chattering classes who scorn Michael O’Leary – the Ryanair boss is right.
We needed a good blast of fresh air on the first day of February, so I was delighted to wake up to a cathartic rant from Mick on Morning Ireland.
Is he still allowed to talk on national radio? I thought he might have been banned off it, under some cultural version of Section 31. Or for calling RTÉ “a rat-infested, North Korean union shop” a few years back.
Not yet, apparently, so the offensive, free-speaking, foul-mouthed, anti-establishment, anti-liberal, un-PC – but endlessly entertaining and down-to-earth – Michael O’Leary was on RTÉ last Monday morning. Mostly to criticise RTÉ, along with Nphet. Yay for democracy.
It’s funny though, how those who parade themselves as liberals were quick to denigrate what he had to say. Perhaps because it made far too much sense.
The Mullingar man blasted Nphet for drumming up “mass hysteria” with their “scare stories” and said chief medical officer Tony Holohan should be holding daily press conferences announcing how many people have been vaccinated instead.
“Vaccination is the way out of this crisis, not failed lockdowns” he said. “We need some optimism in Ireland, instead of the daily doses of pessimism delivered by Nphet and RTÉ.”
In a later interview with Ciara Kelly on Newstalk – I still hadn’t enough of listening to him and tuned in to that one too – he pointed out that our public health experts were not beyond reproach, having got it wrong on mask-wearing, nursing homes and meat factories. He said he was fed up of Nphet being eulogised on RTÉ.
“We’ve been in lockdown for a year, people want to get away. We need to get away from the misery of Nphet and this Government and vaccines are the way to do that.”
I hadn’t fully realised the UK was so significantly far ahead of us on the vaccine roll-out, until he brought it to national attention. Britain is on course to have 50pc of its population vaccinated by March.
He believes we need to get the finger out. “If Europe and Ireland get their act together and catch up, we should be out of these lockdowns by June, and RTÉ will have to move on and talk about something else.”
He might be one of Ireland’s wealthiest businessmen, with a Trinity College degree in economics, but as he’s “not the right sort”, he must be discredited.
Right-thinking, respectable people don’t perceive any bias on the national broadcaster; never question Nphet. That would make you mad; a conspiracy theorist, attention-seeking or agenda-setting. Such dissenting speech could possibly be ‘dangerous’ or labelled ‘disinformation’. To criticise Holohan is practically heresy.
Luckily, O’Leary doesn’t care – or as he once said himself: “I don’t give a s**t if no one likes me” – and so he is free of the fear that has made most in public life afraid to say what they think.
So for everyone who sneered at O’Leary for having the audacity to have an opinion on Covid without being a doctor, there were many more who cheered at the wireless.
After hearing the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the CMO all advise against a holiday abroad this year, it was a release to finally hear some good news from someone in the know. He used uplifting phrases like “remarkably optimistic”, “hopeful” and “looking forward to a better future” and “dramatic recovery by June”. Time will tell if he is proven correct. Let’s hope so.
This pandemic is about society and economy as much as it is about public health – and O’Leary knows about business.
The air travel industry has been arguably the worst affected of all, with Ryanair losing nearly €1bn because of it this year. If he has constructive criticism and solutions to suggest – as well as reasons to be cheerful – I want to hear them.
It is his duty – and in his own interest – to be fully informed about the virus and government responses to it.
The potency of our leaders should not be exalted at the cost of everything else; but that’s what can happen if you’re locked down in Ireland, only getting messaging from the State, its broadcaster, and what he called a “pandering” media.
It’s vital we hear from the likes of him. The fact he’s not an epidemiologist doesn’t make his view null and void. Now that really would be a hierarchical, unequal society.
No matter what you think of O’Leary, it’s hard to escape the conclusion he made some very good points.
He delivered a kick up the backside to consensus thinking, and gave voice to those of us who believe in finding more expansive solutions, as social harms begin to outweigh public health benefits.
He’s right. Get the finger out.