Former transport department official one of two women to join Ryanair board
Ryanair announced three changes to its board of directors yesterday, with the biggest surprise being the appointment as a non-executive director of Julie O’Neill, a former secretary general of the Department of Transport.
Ms O’Neill served seven years as secretary general of the department up to her departure in 2009. She is chairwoman of the audit committee at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The role carries a fee of €450 per meeting up to a maximum of €1,800 a year.
It is not clear whether Ms O’Neill will step aside from this role following her appointment to the board of Ryanair.
The announcement of her new role raised eyebrows in aviation circles yesterday.
In October 2007, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said that the Department of Transport had a “long-standing record of incompetence” and called for it to be closed down.
This was one of many hard-hitting attacks by the airline on the department during Ms O’Neill’s stewardship.
Ryanair declined to comment last night beyond its earlier statement to the stock market about the board appointments while Ms O’Neill did not return calls for comment.
A source at the Department of Transport said there was both “bemusement and amusement” at Ms O’Neill’s appointment.
Ms O’Neill now works as a strategic management consultant. She also serves as a director of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.
She spent 37 years in the public service and was earning €270,000 as secretary general of the department.
She would be entitled to a substantial pension given her past service and her substantial salary on retirement.
Ms O’Neill has held consultancy roles with Government departments since leaving the civil service. These include being rehired by the department of transport in 2010 for 16 days at a daily rate of more than €600 to chair a committee to examine a possible merger of the National Roads Authority and Railway Procurement Agency.
Based on last year’s fees, Ms O’Neill will be entitled to receive €32,000 plus expenses from Ryanair.
Ryanair has also appointed Louise Phelan, a vice president of global operations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for PayPal, as a non-executive director.
Meanwhile, Klaus Kirchberger will step down from the board on March 31st next, which coincides with Ryanair’s financial year end. Mr Kirchberger joined the Ryanair board in September 2002.
Ryanair chairman David Bonderman said he was “delighted” that Ms O’Neill and Ms Phelan had agreed to join Ryanair’s board.
“They bring significant skills, career success and experience to the board and we all look forward to working closely with them both,” he said.