O’Leary criticises state appointments

RYANAIR chief executive Michael O’Leary has criticised the Department of Transport’s choices for new executives at Dublin Airport Authority and Tourism Ireland.

Pádraig Ó Ríordáin, managing partner at law firm Arthur Cox (which advises Aer Lingus), has been appointed as chairman designate of the DAA. Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Müller has joined Tourism Ireland’s board.

While some industry sources have welcomed these senior appointments, Ryanair has accused the department of cronyism in its selections. A Ryanair statement said “these appointments show the Department of Transport’s unrelenting commitment to traffic declines and failure in Irish air transport and tourism”.

Michael O’Leary said: “Isn’t it extraordinary, when Aer Lingus has delivered five years of cumulative losses, and more recently, traffic declines, that this is where the Department of Transport goes to find ‘experts’ for board positions on Tourism Ireland and now the DAA? No one knows more about losing traffic and money in Irish aviation than Aer Lingus and the DAA.”

While with Arthur Cox, Mr Ó Ríordáin was also responsible for the legal implementation of the burden sharing with the Bank of Ireland’s subordinated debt holders. He led the Arthur Cox team advising the state on policy relating to the Irish banking crisis.

Dealing with DAA’s debts will be one of the first issues facing Mr Ó Ríordáin once the Oireachtas Committee on Transport approves his appointment in January. The DAA’s net debt rose to €766 million in 2010, up from €616m in 2009.

Mr Ó Ríordáin is a director of Paddy Power plc and TVC. He is also a member of the European Commission’s Insolvency Law Expert Group, the advisory body to the European Commission on the development of an EU cross-border crisis management regime and resolution for the banking sector.

He replaces David Dilger, who resigned as DAA chairman earlier this year. Last month, it was announced DAA chief executive Declan Collier was to leave to take over as chief executive of London City Airport.

Mr Müller has been chief executive of Aer Lingus since October 2009 and serves as an acting chief operating officer. He is also chief executive of Hapag-Lloyd Flug. He was previously an aviation director and member of the group management board of TUI Travel plc.

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