O´Leary Settles Claim for Defamatory Remarks made on TV


Ryanair boss Michael O´Leary has settled a claim for defamatory remarks made on TV about the head of the Irish Air Line Pilots Association – Evan Cullen.

Michael O´Leary referred to Evan Cullen as a “failed Aer Lingus pilot” during an RTÉ Prime Time program broadcast in September 2006 about pilot rosters. At the time Michael O´Leary defended his comment by saying it was spoken in jest and not intended to be malicious, but Evan Cullen took offence and made a claim for defamatory remarks made on TV.

In his claim, Evan Cullen said that the “failed pilot” comment implied he was not competent to fly an aeroplane and had ceased flying. In fact, Evan Cullen was a highly-regarded pilot for Aer Lingus, and he alleged in his claim for defamatory remarks made on TV that Michael O´Leary´s comment had caused damage to his reputation among his work colleagues and in his community.

A court case originally scheduled for last July had to be abandoned when lawyers for Evan Cullen added last-minute accusations to the case. Adding weight to the original claim for defamatory remarks made on TV, the lawyers said that Michael O´Leary´s comment had been re-broadcast across the Internet and on RTÉ´s Today with Pat Kenny program.

The case was rescheduled for this week but, before it could commence, Mr Justice Eamon de Valera was told that the matter had been settled out of court. A statement was read to the court on Michael O´Leary´s behalf in which the Ryanair boss apologised to Evan Cullen for any embarrassment or damage to his professional reputation. He accepted that Evan Cullen had an excellent flying record and was qualified “in every respect” to carry out his duties as a commercial pilot.

The details of the settlement of the claim for defamatory remarks made on TV were also revealed to the court. Michael O´Leary has agreed to make charitable donations to two worthy organisations in Evan Cullen´s community – the St Laurence O´Toole National School and the St Laurence O´Toole Parish Hall in Roundwood, County Wicklow.