Michael O’Leary has a genius for generating free publicity. But his attack on Nphet shows even the CEO of one of the world’s leading airlines can still spit the dummy out with the best of them when he doesn’t have his way.
One wonders had Mr O’Leary’s mother been listening to him on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, might she have averred: “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.”
Ideally, one would ignore such an outburst, but Mr O’Leary is arguably the best-known businessman in the country.
Were he giving advice on how to get from Belfast to Budapest for under €1 you would hang on his every word. The assumption he knows better than epidemiologists and health chiefs trying to get us through the gravest health crisis in a century – like so many of his aircraft at the moment – simply doesn’t fly. We would all love to escape the cold facts of life under lockdown.
Serious discourse needs to be rooted in reality and not in the clouds where Mr O’Leary would like to bring us.
Being a brilliant PR man, and a marketing genius, does not give you a boarding pass for flights of fantasy. Especially not ones that undermine the credibility of the public health body on whom the Government, and nation, depends.
There’s a lethal virus in the air with variants developing around the world – we have to keep them out, and ourselves in.
His industry is experiencing turbulence like never before, as are most industries.
His company anticipates a full-year loss of €1bn by the end of 2021.
It’s a time for fastening the safety belt and taking the buffeting. But Mr O’Leary took the opportunity to take to the airwaves accusing RTÉ of “pandering to the misinformation coming out of Nphet”. For all his vehemence, he failed to offer a single instance of misinformation to back up his claim.
Singling out chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, he accused him of not doing his job properly.
He also purported to know better than anyone else about when we can book our return trip back to normality.
“If Europe and Ireland get their act together and catch up, we should be out of these lockdowns by June...”
Yet even the Taoiseach has said it’s likely to be the end of the year before the vaccination programme is complete.
The Financial Times recently quoted Eliot Higgins, the internet investigator, who warned: “We’re sitting on the precipice of the misinformation age: from the information age to the misinformation age.”
The kind of unsubstantiated misguided rantings Mr O’Leary let loose only serves to feed into the notion that decibels count for more than facts.
If you shout loudly enough people must listen, and so the argument can be won on the basis of the loudest voice. It’s something every two-year-old knows, but thankfully two-year-olds don’t get to dictate national health policy. Nor should they.