Penneys chair complained about Aer Lingus sponsorship of Phil Coulter

‘What can you gain by doing one-night stands in the US – it is like a midge flying into a hurricane?’

The chairman and managing director of retail giant Penneys wrote to the minister for finance to complain that Aer Lingus was sponsoring a three-month tour of America by Phil Coulter and his orchestra.

Arthur Ryan wrote to outgoing Fine Gael minister John Bruton on January 21st, the day after the resignation of four Labour Party ministers from the government, to tell him he had read of the decision in the paper in London and wishing him every success in the forthcoming election.

But Ryan said his main reason for writing was that he had read in Aer Lingus's Cara magazine, while travelling, that Phil Coulter and his orchestra were being sponsored by the airline for three months in the US.

He said he was “shocked” if this was true and that it would be better for someone like him, travelling to London at least once a week, to get £5 off their plane ticket “rather than subsidising a 3 months tour of an unknown orchestra for one-night stands around the United States”.


Ryan said that where one was "paying over the odds" this was "a bit hard to take" and that his company was "definitely as a result of this looking at Ryanair and diverting as much of our business as possible to them".

He said that surely the benefits (of the tour) in the long term were “for the individual concerned and not Aer Lingus”.

“What can you gain by doing one-night stands in the US – it is like a midge flying into a hurricane?”

In a reply to Ryan on January 30th, Bruton said that advertising and promotion campaigns were “a matter of individual taste, as is Phil Coulter’s music”.

“You, obviously, are more attracted by the lean, no-nonsense (and no-breakfast) corporate image of Ryanair than Aer Lingus’s self-image as patron of the arts.”

Bruton said that by increasing competition in civil aviation, the taxpayer and traveller were getting better value for money from Aer Lingus and that the airline “can no longer simply pass on to the travelling public the cost of any unwise management decisions”.

He said Fine Gael would campaign in the forthcoming election “on a policy of introducing private capital into State companies such as Aer Lingus”.

“Private shareholders are not likely to be as patient as the State, which is still waiting for a dividend after 50 years,” he wrote.

“If we get an opportunity to put our policies into practice, there may be less largess for the travelling bard but a better deal for the travelling businessman.”