The Interview with Michael O’Leary

Labour Party

The exchange between Michael O’Leary and myself on “Woman’s Hour” yesterday has received some attention, including in the Times this morning. You can listen to the full  interview with Michael O’Leary presented by Jane Garvey by clicking the media player below:

Interestingly O’Leary felt unable to leave it there and produced this press release. This is what I sent out a my response:

Ryanair attacks Labour MEP following radio debate

 MEP defends her position following ‘cheap’ and ‘personal’ dig by O’Leary

London MEP Mary Honeyball has responded to a press release issued todayby Ryanair accusing her of “false claims” against his airline and calling her “dreary”.

Ms Honeyball said: ‘Rather than explaining its actions, Ryanair has responded to me by using cheap publicity slogans, which are potentially slanderous. If O’Leary and his team cannot think of anything useful to say, then perhaps they shouldn’t say anything at all’.

Appearing alongside Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour yesterday Honeyball maintained that the Ryanair’s 2010 calendar, which features scantily clad young women in sexually provocative poses, is demeaning.

The women -all of whom are Ryanair employees – were, according to O’Leary, willing volunteers. However, O’Leary does not allow trade union representation at Ryanair, leading Mary Honeyball to wonder whether some of the young women faced pressure to strip off for the calendar. With no trade union to defend them, Mary questioned whether the young women could be especially prone to such coercion.

Replying to O’Leary’s jibe that she was just out to get “cheap publicity” Ms Honeyball said: ‘As an elected representative I have the right to draw people’s attention to matters like this. Since I currently sit on the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in the European Parliament, it is my responsibility to speak out about issues important to women.’

When Mr. O’Leary pointed out that the proceeds from the calendar go to charity, Mary Honeyball said there were much better ways of raising money for good causes which did not involve demeaning images of women.’

And finally….I would like to thank Iain Dale for his congratulations on the work I do on human trafficking.  About the Ryanair calendar Iain, I’d be grateful if you listened to this “Woman’s Hour” piece. I made the same points that you considered flimsy arguments on LBC and O’Leary conspicuously failed to answer them. Maybe they weren’t so flimsy after all?

With Michael O’Leary on Woman’s Hour

Labour Party

 Earlier today I had my very own chance to confront Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO who thinks his scantily clad all female calendar is a bit of fun.  The interview on BBC Radio 4 “Woman’s Hour” with presenter Jane Garvey and O’Leary on the ‘phone from Dublin gave us the opportunity to explain our respective points of view. (I will post a link to the piece as soon as possible).

Nothing was said to change my mind that pictures of young females in suggestive poses is demeaning to women.  It is also a marketing tool for O’Leary who seems to think it’s perfectly acceptable to use virtually naked women in provocative poses to sell his no frills airline – cheap as long as you book well in advance.

Many of you will know that trade unions are not allowed in the Ryanair company.  This inevitably casts doubt on O’Leary’s claim that the young women posing for the calendar, all of them Ryanair employees, are willing volunteers.  With no recourse should any one of them decline to take part in his scheme, I feel I have to ask, are they volunteers or have they been press-ganged?  O’Leary conspicuously refused to answer this and would not deal with my question about lack of trade union representation at Ryanair.

Neither would he engage with the question of aircraft safety.  When Jane Garvey pointed out that one of the pictures in a Ryanair calendar showing a bikini clad female flight attendant blowing up a life jacket was not an appropriate way to treat the safety of air passengers, O’Leary merely reiterated that it was a bit of fun.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to talk to Mr O’Leary.  It’s good he raises money for charity (the proceeds from the calendar go to charities across Europe).  I just wish he would find a way of benefitting good causes which does not involve a bad cause, that of demeaning women.