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Eoghan Corry: When O'Leary and Varadkar stop shouting, Irish tourism may just get the break it so badly needs

WE have to wait until the engines are shut down and the noise level dies down before anyone moves on the latest Ryanair wrangle.

Then when the cabin crew and ground-handling staff have stopped shouting at each other, we will realise a deal is a lot closer than we thought.

"It was never about the ¤3," Michael O'Leary announced at the start of a press conference. "We paid most of the travel tax anyway."

Surprise, surprise, it was all about Dublin Airport Authority. O'Leary has the DAA in his sights and the five million tourists he promises to bring to Ireland depend on a better deal from the DAA.

This involves ending a situation where Aer Lingus will be benefiting from any growth that Ryanair generates at the airport, something that seems more important in O'Leary's mind than reversing the 40pc increase in fees that he ranted about for part of yesterday's press conference.

In fact, O'Leary likes Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, and had contacted him after the exchange of press releases earlier this week -- a Ryanair call to arms and a three paragraph response from Kildare Street on Tuesday evening that distorted the debate.

Michael had already told Leo that he did not expect to get this over the line at the first attempt, but he looked forward to another meeting. When? "Presumably after the holidays." The five million tourists that Ryanair promise, then, are still on the agenda. O'Leary speaks in code, and amid the language that went from red, to green, and blue and back again in rapid succession yesterday there were clear messages.

One was for Leo, another was for his department officials (he has only ever met one and thought him a nice chap, but says the department should be abolished and is unfit for purpose).

Bullocks

The third was for the DAA: that he was unhappy with the growth incentive scheme as it does not ring fence benefits of Ryanair growth for Ryanair and he wants 100pc discounts for growth on existing routes, not just new routes.

Another message was for international aviation -- Ryanair has not lost its edge and will be back to growing aggressively when summer 2012 comes round after parking up 80 of its aircraft for the winter. Ten of those aircraft could be flying in and out of Ireland he said.

The last was for the media, the O'Leary we love, each statement more outrageous than the last, calling for the closure of the Department of Transport, declaring that boats are for bullocks, that the "bogus visitor statistics" from the CSO showing growth were "horseshit" and that the only way the alleged extra tourists could be getting to Ireland was "if they are swimming here".

"War of words" said the headlines, but they missed the point. There was a softer edge to O'Leary's performance yesterday. You had to listen very hard, but it was there.

"Thus far the new Government have done a good job," he said, but "they had a long way to go". The press conference was held Dublin to announce that Ryanair was the first airline to carry 8m passengers in one month, "a milestone for Europe and for low-cost airlines."

If the conference was in London these would be the headlines of the day across the trade press and financial pages, but at the Alexander Hotel, nobody noticed.

After the press conference was over O'Leary came out of performance mode for a chat. He would have preferred it to be less strident. "I sounded like I was ranting," he said. "I didn't want that to happen."

"I'm a serious man," Leo Varadkar had said earlier , a man prone to a rant himself.

It sounds like Mike and Leo have more to talk about than the rest of us might think. And after they have stopped shouting at each other, Irish tourism might get the deal it so badly needs.


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