Sentimentality about Aer Lingus as a national brand is "largely rubbish", according to Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary.
In a pre-recorded interview with RTÉ Radio 1's Countrywide, for broadcast on Saturday morning, Mr O'Leary dismissed concerns that a takeover of the airline by its suitor International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) would be akin to "selling the family jewels".
“The days of whether we [the State] should sell Aer Lingus or not sell Aer Lingus ended in 2007 when we sold 75 per cent of Aer Lingus. This idea that we should hold onto the remaining 25 per cent because Aer Lingus is some kind of national brand or jewel is frankly long outdated. Ryanair is Ireland’s biggest airline,” he said.
The suggestion that Ireland would “somehow be cut off” were the Government to sell the State’s stake is “frankly for the birds”, he added.
Ryanair is yet to receive an offer for its 29 per cent stake in Aer Lingus, but “if we do receive an offer, it will be considered on its merits”, he said.
Asked whether he supported people who have protested against Irish Water, he said he thought their concerns were “a load of nonsense”.
“If you live down the country the way I do and many other people, we’ve been paying for water for years,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s a very broadly based campaign. I think people accept that they have to pay for water. This idea that water is somehow free or that you’re entitled to free water is nonsense. Go and talk to them in deserts in Africa.”