Slightly later than advertised, despite Ryanair’s usual record of arrival before time, the familiar figure of Michael O’Leary strode into Ireland West Airport Knock last Tuesday morning with European flag in hand, which he quickly draped over the podium at the head of the room. Along with O’Leary was European Transport Commissioner Antonio Tanji. The two men on first glance appear as strange bedfellows for the Yes campaign, especially when Commissioner Tanji constantly mentions his support for passenger rights in relation to air travel, something that O’Leary tells the assembled crowd is something he will vehemently fight against.
Both men criss crossed Ireland on Tuesday to campaign for a Yes vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum on October 2, with O’Leary saying that he would take on Declan Ganley in a debate on the Lisbon Treaty and calling him a failed politician. “I’ll confront him on the Matt Cooper show on Today FM on Thursday,” he said. “I wouldn’t pay too much attention to what Declan Ganley says, last month he was out, this month he’s in. He seems to have some difficulty making up his mind what he wants to do. Frankly I’m quite happy to debate the issue with Declan Ganley. I keep more jobs in this country than he does, I pay more tax in this country than he does, if he wants to have a debate on how he thinks voting No is going to enhance the Irish economy or job creation let’s have a debate. I think the problem for Declan Ganley is that he wants to be Dana, but he couldn’t get enough votes to get elected. I never wanted to be Dana, sadly I can’t sing and I’m never going to run for political office so I think I have a more independent voice than some failed politician.”
O’Leary also said that a Yes vote on October 2 would ensure the survival of the tourism industry in the west of Ireland and regional airports like Knock. “We have remained very committed to Knock airport, we continue to be an important customer here and I think we will continue to be an important customer here. It is one of the demonstrations of the success of Ryanair and Knock airport as one of the reasons why Ireland should vote Yes to the Lisbon Treaty. Without the European Commission’s policy on aviation and deregulation of transport and competition, Ryanair would not have grown to the size we are today. Without European Union funding many of the tourism infrastructure that you have in the west of Ireland including Knock, could not have developed as successfully to the extent it has today.”
The Mullingar man also hit out at the no side saying that they offered nothing in terms of economic polices to get Ireland out of the current economic crisis. “Look at the coalition of clowns who are recommending a No vote, they offer Ireland no jobs, no future, no credible reason to vote No. If you look at the economic polices of those economic geniuses in Sinn Fein, the Socialist Party, UKIP or (F )UKIP, they offer Ireland no jobs, they offer Ireland no economic policy. And I do believe without Europe, Ireland West Airport Knock wouldn’t be the success it is today nor would tourism in the west of Ireland. If you don’t like the Government vote Yes, I’m very sure you’ll get your chance later on this year or early next year to vote them out.”