Michael Cawley to be named Fáilte Ireland chairman

Appointment of former Ryanair executive followed recommendation from Varadkar

Michael Cawley: will serve a five-year term. Photograph:  Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Michael Cawley: will serve a five-year term. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Thu, May 1, 2014, 01:00

The former deputy chief executive of Ryanair Michael Cawley is set to become the next chairman of State tourism agency Fáilte Ireland.

The Irish Times has learned Mr Cawley’s appointment was agreed at Cabinet yesterday following a recommendation from Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar. He will serve a five-year term.

The Corkman will fill a role vacated last September by Redmond O’Donoghue, the former head of Waterford Wedgwood.

Mr Cawley stepped down as deputy chief executive and chief operating officer with Ryanair in March after 17 years service but remains as a non-executive director of the airline.

He has other high-profile directorships, including with listed bookmaker Paddy Power and with electricity supplier Prepay Power.

In a statement about Mr Cawley’s imminent appointment, the Minister said: “If Michael Cawley can do for Irish tourism what he did for Ryanair, I will be a very happy Minister. I’m delighted to nominate a chairman of the calibre of Michael Cawley and I think he is an ideal fit for Fáilte Ireland.

“I know that Michael will bring a new dynamism to the position of the chairmanship of Fáilte Ireland and drive forward the tourist sector, building on the success of The Gathering and Government initiatives such as the 9 per cent VAT rate.”

Mr Varadkar said the appointment comes at a “crucial time” for the industry. “Tourism is now firmly in recovery and visitor numbers are ahead of target. However our resources remain limited and Michael will have a key role in targeting investments carefully.”

Mr Cawley’s appointment will take effect after an appearance at the Oireachtas joint committee on transport and communications. He will be paid €20,520 a year as chairman.

It is understood the Minister had no hesitation in appointing Mr Cawley in spite of Ryanair’s well-publicised criticism of The Gathering, which the airline’s chief Michael O’Leary dubbed “the Grabbing”.