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15th Apr 2024

Ryanair launches pro-Lisbon treaty campaign

  • Mr Leary referred to anti-Lisbon 'headbangers' and 'economic illiterates' (Photo: EUobserver)

Irish cut-price airline Ryanair has said it will spend half a million euros on a campaign backing the Lisbon Treaty ahead of Ireland's second referendum on the document, scheduled for 2 October.

On Wednesday (26 August), the company's chief executive, Michael O'Leary, announced in Dublin his firm will get involved because he does not trust "incompetent" politicians to win the argument alone.

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Living up to his carefully crafted reputation as a right-wing curmudgeon, during a press conference designed to be a defence of the European Union, Mr O'Leary attacked the government, the Yes campaign, the No campaign, civil servants and trade unionism.

"If we don't campaign for a Yes vote, there's a danger that it could be lost again," he told reporters. "There's a danger that people could be complacent or vote against the treaty as a vote against the government."

He said he did not trust the Yes side to be won by "Brian Cowen, Micheal Martin, and all the other incompetents."

He termed the No side a group of "headbangers," ridiculing what he called a "ragbag amalgam of the No campaign, led by economic illiterates like Sinn Fein, the UK Independence Party and the Socialist Party."

Without the EU, he said, "the Irish economy would be run by our incompetent politicians, our inept civil service and the greedy public sector trade union bosses who, through social partnership, have in recent years destroyed Ireland's competitiveness, created an epidemic of useless quangos and feathered the nests of the public sector at the expense of ordinary consumers in Ireland."

In total, the company will spend €500,000 on a publicity campaign, with €200,000 going to newspaper and internet adverts and €300,000 on "deeply discounted seats" intended to highlight Brussels' positive role in reducing air fares.

Curiously, Mr O'Leary last October attacked the idea of forcing Ireland to vote on the Lisbon Treaty a second time.

''It seems that only in the European Union, Ireland and Zimbabwe are you forced to vote twice," O'Leary said. ''The vote should be respected. It is the only democratic thing to do," he told the Sunday Business Post.

Ryanair is not the first major corporation to launch a Yes campaign. Last week, the Irish division of computer chipmaker Intel announced that it will also battle to save the treaty.

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