O'Leary in court apology to union official


RYANAIR CHIEF executive Michael O’Leary has apologised before the High Court for wrongly describing a senior trade union official on a TV programme as a “failed Aer Lingus pilot”.

Mr O’Leary also said he accepted Capt Evan Cullen had “an excellent flying record”.

The apology was read in court yesterday as part of a settlement of proceedings brought by Mr Cullen, president of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (Ialpa), against Mr O’Leary over the remark on an RTÉ Prime Timeprogramme on September 12th, 2006.

Mr O’Leary, who was not in court, also agreed to pay Mr Cullen’s legal costs and to contribute to charities nominated by him.

Welcoming the apology, Capt Cullen said: “I am also delighted that some good has come out of this difficult episode as Mr O’Leary has agreed to make donations to two worthy organisations in my local community, namely the St Laurence O’Toole National School and the St Laurence O’Toole parish hall, both in Roundwood, Co Wicklow.”

Mr O’Leary had argued the words actually meant Mr Cullen had failed in a long-running campaign by Ialpa to get Ryanair’s pilots unionised. He also claimed the words were mere vulgar abuse not spoken maliciously.

Mr Cullen’s action had opened before Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne and a jury in July last year but was halted after the court heard the defamatory remark had been rebroadcast on the internet and on the Pat Kenny Show but this information had not been included in the original claim.

The case was listed for hearing again yesterday but Mr Justice Éamon de Valera was told the matter had been settled and an apology by Mr O’Leary could be read out.

The apology, read by Martin Hayden SC for Mr O’Leary, stated the “failed pilot” remark may have given the impression to the public that Mr Cullen had ceased to be an Aer Lingus pilot or that he lacked the capacity or necessary licences to hold that position.

“That was untrue and was not the meaning I intended,” Mr O’Leary said. “I intended to refer to Mr Cullen’s efforts to secure recognition for Ialpa by Ryanair. I recognise I did not make this clear.”

Mr O’Leary said he wished to “apologise unreservedly if my remarks caused Mr Cullen embarrassment or have damaged his professional reputation in the eyes of viewers of the programme”.

In his action, Mr Cullen said he had brought the legal action after Mr O’Leary refused to publish a draft apology prepared by Mr Cullen’s lawyers.