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Ryan Air - O'Leary apologises to pilot and donates €75,000 to local causes

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Well-known member
Jun 6, 2006
A PRIMARY school and a parish hall are to receive €75,000 after Ryanair supremo Michael O'Leary was forced to apologise in the High Court to an Aer Lingus pilot.
The outspoken businessman apologised for calling a trade union officer a "failed Aer Lingus pilot" during a heated television debate.
Mr O'Leary made the apology after being sued by Captain Evan Cullen for defamation because his remarks caused people to think he was no longer allowed to fly.
When Mr O'Leary refused to publish a draft apology that had originally been prepared by Mr Cullen's lawyers, the High Court proceedings were instituted.
It is the second time in just two months that Mr O'Leary has been forced to publicly apologise. Last month, the High Court ordered him to say sorry to Transport Minister Noel Dempsey for "lying" in a letter to him.
His apology to Mr Cullen formed part of a confidential settlement where Mr O'Leary also agreed to make a donation, believed to be €75,000, to organisations the pilot chose.
The organisations in question are the St Laurence O'Toole National School and the St Laurence O'Toole Parish Hall, both in Roundwood, Co Wicklow.
Last night, Mr Cullen, who is president of the Irish Airline Pilots' Association, said he was "pleased" that the apology had vindicated his good name and reputation.
In a statement, he said Mr O'Leary's remarks had caused "considerable upset" to both himself and his family, particularly in the period following the 'Prime Time' programme.
"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," Mr Cullen added.
Mr O'Leary, who was not in court, also agreed to pay Mr Cullen's legal costs.
A statement read to the High Court yesterday said that his "failed pilot" comment on RTE's 'Prime Time', broadcast on September 12, 2006, "may have given the impression" that the trade union boss "lacked the capacity or the necessary licences" to be a pilot.
"This was untrue," Mr O'Leary High Court statement admitted.
"This was not the meaning I intended. I intended to refer to Mr Cullen's efforts to secure recognition for the IALPA by Ryanair. I recognise that I did not make this clear.
"I wish to apologise unreservedly if my remarks caused Mr Cullen embarrassment or have damaged his professional reputation in the eyes of viewers of the programme.
"I accept that Mr Cullen has an excellent flying record and is qualified in every respect to carry out his duties as a commercial pilot. To mark my regret I have agreed to pay Mr Cullen's legal costs and to contribute to certain charities nominated by him."
Paul O'Higgins SC, for Mr Cullen, told the court the legal costs Mr O'Leary would pay included those of an appeal to the Supreme Court over an aborted jury trial.
Mr Cullen claimed the "failed pilot" remark meant he was not competent to fly an airplane and that he had ceased flying although he was still a highly regarded pilot working in Aer Lingus.
Mr O'Leary argued that 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 and actually spoken in jest.
People in the small village of Roundwood, Co Wicklow, where Mr Cullen lives, thought he had "lost his wings" and for some reason was not allowed to fly, he added.
- Paul Melia and Tim Healy
Irish Independent

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