Michael O'Leary takes a pop at 'nuts' British policy and fans Cork and Waterford rivalry

Michael O'Leary takes a pop at 'nuts' British policy and fans Cork and Waterford rivalry

From left: Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary; Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson; and Enterprise, Trade and Employment Minister Leo Varadkar at an event in the Merrion Hotel, Dublin, on Wednesday to mark Ryanair’s 35-year contribution to the economy and announce 2,000 jobs by 2030. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

What the British Government is doing is “nuts”, the entry point for the higher rate of tax in Ireland should be €50,000, and Ryanair offering routes at Waterford Airport could come at the expense of Cork.

Never one to mince his words, Michael O’Leary was his usual brash self when addressing media, civil servants and politicians in Dublin’s Merrion Hotel on Wednesday.

Ostensibly there to talk about Ryanair’s contribution to the Irish economy and the airline's plans to increase passenger numbers in and out of Ireland from 20m to 30m by 2030, Michael O'Leary also offered his unique take on a variety of different topics.

He assured those in attendance his presentation would contain “a lot more swearing” than if PwC had been able to deliver its report on Ryanair’s contribution to the economy.

All press were “welcome”, he said, which was a far cry from the company’s AGM a few weeks ago, and there would be “nobody banned” today.

It is very important that Dublin Airport “doesn’t blow it” with its planned tunnel under the new runway he claimed “we don’t need” and “we don’t want to pay for”.

Mr O’Leary also “wouldn’t want to be an investor in Waterford Airport”, the place where it all started for Ryanair nearly 40 years ago.

But, on that last point, he did say that if Waterford were to get a runway capable of taking jets, then Ryanair would likely offer a route from there.

There was a catch, however.

“It eats into Cork’s catchment area and Dublin’s catchment area,” he said. 

Cork and Shannon struggle because increasingly more and more people living in Fermoy or Nenagh or Mitchelstown drive to Dublin because Dublin has a wider choice of flights and it’s easy to get to.” 

Because of their relative inaccessibility to Dublin in comparison, Kerry and Knock fare better according to the Ryanair boss.

Even at that, however, Ireland already has “too many airports for the size of its population”, he said.

In spite of that, Ryanair is very much dedicated to its future in Ireland according to Mr O’Leary and Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson. With Enterprise Minister Leo Varadkar by their side, they set out their stall for Ryanair to continue to play a large role in the Irish economy in the decades to come.

In Munster, alone, Ryanair contributes €130m to GDP and 3,000 jobs, they claimed, pointing to the PwC report.

Mr O’Leary said visitors to Ireland who come via Ryanair spend €1.5bn a year in the Irish economy. And he said for every one employee they hire, two jobs are created in the economy.

He also said no one has invested more in Ireland in the last 35 years than Ryanair.

In the coming years, he said the airline is pledging more than 2,000 new jobs for pilots, cabin crew, engineers, and IT developers in Ireland.

While both Mr O’Leary and Mr Wilson said the Government must act “sensibly” in its approach to the aviation industry, Mr O’Leary did give an endorsement to this week’s budget. He said the Irish Government had “pitched it sensibly” — in contrast to what is happening across the Irish Sea, referencing difficulties in the British economy.

The pair also talked of further expansion in the future, and said they would play their part in combatting climate change.

While they said Ryanair accepted it must pay environmental taxes on air travel, it said others — particularly long-haul carriers — don't pay their fair share and urged the Government to take this into account when levying taxes on the industry.

They also talked up Ryanair flying more energy efficient fleets in the future and its contribution towards reduced carbon emissions. This included more efficient aircraft and emerging technologies. 

In this regard, they found a willing ear in Mr Varadkar, who said: “We have to understand that we’re an island nation, aviation is crucial for our connectivity. I do believe it’s possible to embrace climate action and also maintain aviation links.” 

With a seal of Government approval, Mr O’Leary sent attendees on their way, promising a tea or a pastry on the way out. But, he laughed, not at Ryanair prices.

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