RYANAIR’S head of communications Stephen McNamara told the High Court yesterday he would not apologise to former Miss World Rosanna Davison over a press release which she says branded her a racist.
Asked by Ms Davison’s counsel, Jim O’Callaghan, if he was prepared to apologise, having heard evidence in the case, Mr McNamara said “no”.
Mr McNamara said the release in question was published (on the airline website) following comments made by Ms Davison at a time when Ryanair was trying to raise money for charity by publishing a calendar featuring members of its staff.
He insisted he did not make any comments about Ms Davison herself but about comments she had made in relation to the calendar. “That is an important difference, I don’t know Ms Davison,” he said.
Mr McNamara was under cross-examination on the third day of Ms Davison’s defamation action against the airline over the news release issued by Ryanair on November 11, 2008, which she says wrongly meant she was a racist, xenophobic and jealous.
The court has heard the release was posted in reaction to remarks by Ms Davison relating to the absence of any Irish female cabin crew from a Ryanair charity calendar for 2009. It featured international female cabin crew in bikinis and under titles including Miss Cockpit and Miss Fuel Pump.
Ryanair denies defamation, denies the release contains the alleged meanings and claims it was fair comment.
The action by Ms Davison, 27, a model and newspaper columnist, with an address at Cornelscourt, Dublin, is being heard before Mr Justice Éamon de Valera and a jury of eight men and four women.
The court has heard the release arose after an Irish Independent journalist asked Ms Davison what she thought of the absence of any Irish female cabin crew in the calendar.
She said she was correctly quoted the next day as saying: “If I was (organising) it, I would have made sure that Irish women were involved because it’s an Irish charity and Irish fundraising. Any person from any part of Europe would say Irish women are gorgeous”.
The following day Ryanair posted the release which stated the airline “hit back” at comments made by Ms Davison in relation to the absence of Irish cabin crew from the calendar which “bordered on racism and demonstrated an elitist attitude against Ryanair’s international cabin crew”.
Under continuing cross-examination yesterday, Mr O’Callaghan asked Mr McNamara if he accepted what another High Court judge, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, had said in June last year about “Ryanair and the truth being uncomfortable bedfellows” when he (Kelly) was giving judgment on another case in which the airline challenged charges at Dublin Airport.
Mr O’Callaghan said Mr Justice Kelly remarked in his judgment that Ryanair issued a press release in relation to that matter which was not factually accurate and described the then transport minister Noel Dempsey as “dozy” and “dolittle Dempsey”.
When counsel asked Mr McNamara if he accepted the content of Mr Justice Kelly’s judgment, Mr McNamara replied he did not have that press release in front of him and he did not think he was involved in issuing it. He thought that release was issued by airline boss Michael O’Leary.
He respected the decision of the court and the judge but he understood there were other legal issues relating to that case which he was not privy to.
He did not accept the press release issued in this (Davison) case was a further example of Ryanair and the truth being uncomfortable bedfellows.
Mr McNamara also disagreed that Ryanair did not take criticism well. He cited the example of criticism in the media and elsewhere last year when Ryanair announced it would not be prepared to pay compensation as a result of flight cancellations due to the ash cloud. Mr McNamara said in the light of what was said about the airline’s stance, Ryanair backed down and it cost them €50m, which he said showed it could take criticism.
Evidence in the case has ended and the jury is expected to go out today.
In yesterday’s report of the defamation action by former Miss World Rosanna Davison against Ryanair it was wrongly stated Ms Davison had agreed a letter to Ryanair from her solicitors on November 23rd, 2008, stating she was seeking “substantial damages” from Ryanair. The letter, in fact, stated she was seeking a “substantial donation” to charity as well as an apology.