Friday, 25 September 2009

Ryanair suffers for O'Leary's Lisbon lunacy

UPDATE: Weds 30 September 2009

Michael O'Leary truly gives the game away in a TV interview, saying: “One of the reasons that I am campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote is that our Government is incompetent, yet I need to persuade them to sell me Aer Lingus” - according to The Times.


The Daily Telegraph today features a great article on Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary's 'Yes to Lisbon' campaign.

The outspoken airline boss - king of surprise extra charges and nemesis of customer service - has pledged to splash half a million euros on a Ryanair campaign in support of a 'Yes' vote in Ireland's looming repeat referendum.

But landing a potent succession of punches against the campaign, the Telegraph first launches into a 'double whammy' attack on the EU's Transport Commissioner for joining in with a pro-Lisbon flying circus orchestrated by O'Leary earlier this week.

The suggestion is that the Commissioner both broke impartiality rules by taking sides in Ireland's debate over the Lisbon Treaty and, by accepting free flights and hospitality, also engaged in a potential conflict of interest given his role in decisions over airline policy.

But even better, the article goes on to humiliate O'Leary himself for his blatant personal hypocrisy over the EU and the last referendum result, pointing out that the Ryanair boss's current view is very different to the one he reportedly held last October, following Ireland's first 'No' vote.

Bias Bellenaise

During six hours of Ryanair flights around Ireland on Tuesday, Commissioner Antonio Tajani reportedly enjoyed on-board chicken Bellenaise and wild rice as his host O'Leary launched into numerous foam-flecked tirades directed at "No to Lisbon" campaigners.

According to the Telegraph, Mr Tajani stood silently by during a succession of press conferences in which Mr O'Leary mocked Lisbon Treaty opponents as "numpties", "numb nuts" and "clowns" (solid arguments to hand more decisions over to Brussels there, Michael!) all the while referring to the attendant eurocrat as "my new friend commissioner Tajani."

Allegations of two serious offences against Commission rules committed by Mr Tajani has sparked a chorus of calls for his resignation, coupled with accusations levelled at O'Leary that he has launched his "Yes" campaign to curry favour with both Brussels and the Irish government that hold such sway over his current business ambitions.

As transport commissioner, Mr Tajani plays a key role in setting the rules governing airline operations and also has influence over competition rulings such as those covering Ryanair's desperate attempts to take over Aer Lingus.

In addition, just as O'Leary leapt aboard the 'Yes to Lisbon' campaign all cosy with the Irish governing elite, this outstanding matter is under consideration by the Irish Aviation Authority.

If approved, looser seating arrangements would likely boost Ryanair's profits by hundreds of millions of pounds.

Giving away an insight into his true motivations, according to the Irish Times O'Leary earlier in the week said of Brussels : "these f***ers have very long memories. They stuck it to us enough times."

"You can never link one with the other, but Ryanair’s offer to Aer Lingus is the only airline merger that’s been turned down by Brussels on competition grounds in 30 years," he said.

Can't link one with the other? Really, who is O'Leary trying to kid?

Flying flip-flop

Besides the business considerations over which O'Leary is clearly prepared to help pawn Ireland's democracy, his sudden conversion to the Lisbon Treaty also flies in the face of his previous remarks on EU issues.

Back in October, after it had become clear that Ireland was going to be forced by the EU to vote again, O'Leary said: "It seems that only in the EU, Ireland and Zimbabwe are you forced to vote twice. The vote should be respected. It is the only democratic thing to do."

During yesterday's Today FM debate on the Lisbon Treaty featuring both O'Leary and Libertas leader Declan Ganley - which the Irish Times describes as quickly turning into the 'Mick and Declan show' - Ganley drove the charge of personal hypocrisy deeper.

To titters from the audience, O’Leary was reminded of his previous criticisms of the European Commission as “Stalinist” and “an evil empire” run by “morons” and “gobshites”.

Symbolic of the level of debate on the issue that the 'Yes to Lisbon' side has to offer, an unrepentant O’Leary reportedly rolled his eyes and retorted “Accept No for an answer Declan and bugger off”.

If only the EU would accept 'No' for an answer, Declan probably would.

Ryanair boycott

During the course of the Lisbon Treaty debate, the embarrassing intervention of Michael O'Leary has only added to the evidently already plentiful supply of bad press Ryanair is clocking up.

Apart from pushing a campaign directly opposed to the democratic decision already made in a referendum by a majority of Irish people, millions across Europe oppose the Lisbon Treaty and the EU's whole current direction.

In addition to three countries having voted against the EU Constitution / Lisbon Treaty, the only independent poll of all 27 member states, taken in 2007, showed that majorities in 16 countries would vote 'no' to a Treaty giving more powers to the EU.

A reality that is all too evident when you look at websites such as that of the Europe Says No campaign.

So for the owner of a Europe-wide airline to plant himself so publicly on the wrong side in a Europe-wide debate smacks from a business point of view of shooting yourself spectacularly in the foot.

O'Leary might think he's sticking it to the 'No' side, but his level of debate is an embarrassment and in reality his interventions are daily putting the boot into the Europe-wide popularity of his business.

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