Michael O’Leary’s barbs at Ryan highlights quandary facing Minister

Green Party leader must oversee revival of aviation while also checking its climate effect

Eamon Ryan holds the dual roles of the Minister with direct responsibility for aviation and also leader of the Green Party. File photograph: The Irish Times

Eamon Ryan holds the dual roles of the Minister with direct responsibility for aviation and also leader of the Green Party. File photograph: The Irish Times

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Michael O’Leary had some choice words this week for the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan who he claimed “does not give a sh*te” about the perils facing the aviation sector, which has been devastated by the pandemic. Ryan rejected the criticism and insisted he wants to see lost connectivity restored.

As is O’Leary’s wont, criticism of the Minister was unburdened by restraint. It appears unreasonable to suggest that a serving Minister does not care about an industry vital to the national interest.

But O’Leary’s outburst draws attention to a contradiction inherent in Ryan’s dual roles as Minister with direct responsibility for aviation and also leader of the Green Party – the driving force behind the Government’s environmental agenda. He is also the Minister with responsibility for policy on climate change.

Aviation in Ireland must be revived if, as an island nation, the economy is to thrive. Yet aviation is also blamed as one of the fastest growing sources of carbon emission and new taxes are being prepared to discourage cheap flights and rein in environmental damage.

Other countries, such as the Netherlands and Germany, that are driving the aviation tax agenda in the EU can turn to rail networks to maintain their international links. Ireland cannot. Ryan has a foot in both of these competing camps. How will he square that circle? It will take deft policymaking from the Minister and even more nimble public relations, to keep all sides happy.

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