Michael O’Leary endorses Leo Varadkar for top job

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Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary is supporting Team Leo in the race for the Fine Gael leadership.

Speaking at the airline’s press conference a stone’s throw from the Dáil in the Davenport Hotel, he said that while Ryanair is non-political, he wants to see Leo Varadkar taking the helm at Fine Gael.

And he said this might surprise some, given the similarities between his background – “somebody who was born in Cork and went to Clongowes” – and that of Simon Coveney.

The then Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar and then Aer Lingus CEO Christophe Mueller in 2013

“I would strongly favour Leo Varadkar for the next leader of Fine Gael. I think Simon Coveney is an excellent candidate given that he was born in Cork and went to Clongowes, but there’s a couple of things I would point to with Leo Varadkar. He has accomplished more in his ministerial portfolios; he was in Transport, Health and currently Social Welfare, which is a little bit more challenging than Simon’s portfolios of Marine, Defence – God help us – and Agriculture.

“I think the way Leo has run the current campaign has been very impressive. They’ve both had 12 months’ notice that there’s a leadership campaign coming down the road and frankly the way Leo has organised his campaign. He seems to have it sewn up almost out of the blocks and seems to have left Simon standing somewhat.”

But Mr O’Leary doesn’t believe the next FG leader will be Taoiseach for long. “I think the country needs change and Leo represents a slightly more risky candidate. Simon’s a bit more of the old guard Blueshirts but I think there will be an election in the not too distant future, maybe the next 12 months, and Varadkar will do better against Micheal Martin than maybe Simon would.

“Simon and Micheal seems to be a bit of a local Cork scrimmage whereas at least with Leo you’re getting Dublin v Cork and as you’ve seen in football in recent years Dublin tends to do better than Cork, much to my shame and horror. So I would strongly endorse Leo. In terms of the interaction we’ve had with him – Leo was the Minister for Transport when himself and Michael Noonan pushed through the reduction in the very damaging travel tax – the Fianna Fail travel tax – which had devastated visitor numbers to Ireland in the previous three years. they rounded even stronger in the next two years.”

But Mr O’Leary did joke that his ringing endorsement could be a “kiss of death” for the former Transport Minister.

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Video highlights from the conference:

  • There is going to be a hard Brexit & Flights could stop on March 19 2019 (watch here)
  • Britain has nothing to negotiate with (watch here)
  • Britain will have to adhere to ECJ to keep open skies (watch here)
  • Ireland has no influence on Brexit (watch here)
  • There is a real prospect flights will be halted (watch here)
  • He supports parallel runway at Dublin airport (watch here)
  • Europe will use aviation as a pressure point to bring home implications of Brexit to England’s electorate (watch here)
  • Everybody in the British Government is running away from the implications of Brexit (watch here)
  • 100 Air Europe flights were sold in the first day of the new partnership and Lisbon has joined the list of airports where Ryanair wil offer connections with TAP (watch here)
  • Ryanair employees work under Irish contracts because it is the law and not because Ireland is a tax haven, in fact personal taxes in Ireland are higher than most of the countries where Ryanair operates (watch here)
  • There will be no shortage of candidates for CEO of the DAA (watch here)
  • Alitalia restructure will be good for Ryanair (watch here)
  • Brexit will force breakup of IAG (watch here)
  • Britain is strong in terms of volume not price (watch here)
  • Ryanair’s passenger target raised from 180m to 200m passengers by 2024 (watch here)
  • Irish bookings are 1pc ahead of last year (watch here)
  • He talked up Ryanair’s Erasmus Student initiative (watch here)
  • CCO David O’Brien said that Ryanair have identified 300 connection possibilities at Bergamo airport using their own network (watch here).
  • Gulf carriers will run out of money (watch here)
  • AGB boosted passenger numbers form 80m to 120m and increased profits from 500m to 1.3bn (watch here)
  • Dublin airport T3 should be private should be built where the current hangars are situated with the hangars relocated to the McAveddy side of the airport (watch here)
  • Ireland needs a younger breed of politician (watch here)
  • Ryanair are negotiating the purchase of 600 more aircraft from Boeing for the 2023 to 2028 period (watch here)
  • Ryanair try to be disciplined at boarding gate with passengers over second bag (watch here)
  • Ryanair wanted to walk passengers through the original 1943 Desmond FitzGerald terminal to the A pier 100 gates (watch here)
  • Ryanair is willing to build Dublin airport T3 for 230m (watch here)
  • We were first airline to support Dublin airport T2 (watch here)
  • Why does Ireland need a Dept of Transport? (watch here)
  • He validated Shane Ross performance during bus strikes (watch here)
  • Dublin does not need a metro (watch here) He was joking about shooting cyclists (we think).
  • He endorsed Leo Varadkar in the race for leadership of Fine Gael (watch here)
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