Airport war of words between Michael O’Leary and Eamon Ryan deepens

Ryanair boss accuses Minister of having ‘no difficulty’ intervening in planning for Dublin Metro’ but refusing to act on Dublin Airport passenger cap

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan’s claim he cannot intervene to lift the 32-million passenger cap at Dublin Airport is untrue, according to Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary.

Airport operator DAA has asked Fingal County Council to lift a condition restricting passenger numbers, a limit that has sparked angry exchanges between Mr O’Leary and the Minister.

In his latest broadside against the Minister, the airline boss branded Mr Ryan’s argument he could not intervene in the planning process as untrue.

“In recent interviews, you have shown no restraint in confidently predicting that Dublin Metro will receive planning approval ‘later this year’, despite the fact that this project is currently being considered by An Bord Pleanála,” Mr O’Leary said in an open letter to the Minister.


“You clearly have no difficulty intervening in the planning process for Dublin Metro, while at the same time you abdicate all responsibility for, or refuse to act [even on an interim basis] to remove this absurd traffic cap, which blocks all growth of traffic and tourism in Ireland through Dublin.”

He accuses the Minister of “delivering stagnation” rather than the growth called for in the Government’s National Aviation Strategy.

Mr O’Leary was responding to Mr Ryan’s own answer to earlier calls from the Ryanair chief to tackle the passenger cap or resign. The Minister maintained he could not interfere in the planning process – Dublin Airport operator DAA has applied to Fingal County Council to lift the passenger limit to 40 million – and dubbed Mr O’Leary’s statements as highly personal and inflammatory.

Mr Ryan also noted he had invited Mr O’Leary to meet, but the airline boss said this claim had surprised him.

“If you wanted to meet with Europe’s largest airline at any time over the past four years, you could have easily requested such a meeting,” he said.

Mr O’Leary said if the Minister needed to learn how to grow air travel and tourism, he was welcome to visit Ryanair’s headquarters in Swords, Co Dublin.

He maintained that Eddie Wilson, chief executive of Ryanair DAC, the airline group’s biggest subsidiary, repeatedly invited the Minister there.

An Bord Pleanála imposed the 32 million a-year passenger cap on Dublin Airport as a condition of granting DAA permission to build its new north runway.

Dublin opened the runway in 2022, boosting capacity to 60 million passengers, according to Mr O’Leary.

He wants Mr Ryan to introduce legislation lifting the cap, if necessary on an interim basis while Fingal council planners deal with the DAA application to lift it.

Mr O’Leary said it was remarkable that two Green Party ministers, Mr Ryan and Catherine Martin, were responsible for transport and tourism, but appeared incapable of scrapping the passenger limit.

A Department of Transport spokesman said Mr Ryan’s office would contact Ryanair to arrange a meeting.

“With regard to the planning application submitted by DAA to Fingal County Council to enable the airport to grow to 40 million passengers a year, the Minister reiterates that he cannot intervene in the planning process as it would be wholly inappropriate for him to do so,” he added.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas