O’Leary casts unwelcome light on a very Irish political compromise

The Ryanair boss can be selective in his evidence but, in attacking the quarantine plan, he has a point

You don’t have to agree with resuming air travel to concede that Ryanair’s boss, Michael O’Leary, makes a valid point. Photograph: Collins

You don’t have to agree with resuming air travel to concede that Ryanair’s boss, Michael O’Leary, makes a valid point. Photograph: Collins

 

Michael O’Leary, somewhat predictably, is getting it in the neck. It’s a position he’s likely more comfortable with than anyone else in Irish business. And, no doubt, he saw it coming when he chose to attack the State’s plans to introduce a tougher quarantine process for visitors to these shores, and returning Irish residents.

Some in the medical establishment took the bait.

The crux of their argument it that O’Leary is speaking from the position of his vested interest and that of the airline he runs, not from the science underpinning the quarantine proposal.

The first is a given. Of course, he is fighting for the interests of his corporate corner. He hasn’t pretended otherwise and he is perfectly entitled to do so. If anything, the Ryanair boss’s lobbying on behalf of his company is more transparent than that of many business leaders.

But what about the science?

It remains the case that public health advice in this State at present is not to fly, full stop. In public health terms, that makes sense. And, to be fair, that was the point made by many who reacted to his comments. But, as the economy reopens, there comes a point when air travel resumes.

His assertion that people can fly “in perfect safety” under new guidelines put in place for air travel is clearly nonsense. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which drew up the protocols, never said that. They talk instead of “minimising the risk of virus transmission”, an altogether lower bar.

But some of what O’Leary says makes eminent sense. Imposing a quarantine structure and then letting air passengers wander off home in taxis or on public transport is clearly self-defeating.

The Ryanair boss can be selective in his evidence but, in attacking the quarantine plan, he is simply casting an unwelcome light on a very Irish political compromise.

You don’t have to agree with resuming air travel to concede that he has a point.

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