Ryanair denies generating publicity in charity calendar mess


The head of communications at Ryanair has denied that the airline is using the proceedings being taken against it by former Miss World Rosanna Davison to generate publicity.

Stephen McNamara said Ryanair was a large organisation, which was able to take criticism well.

He said he had issued a press release making comments about Ms Davison in order to defend a charity calendar, featuring Ryanair staff.

Ms Davison’s lawyers said the airline was a corporate bully when it came to criticism and the only thing she had done wrong was that she was foolish enough to get on the wrong side of Ryanair.

Ryanair’s head of communications told the High Court that the airline’s charity calendar is produced every year.

Mr McNamara said notices are put up in all bases and cabin crew are invited to send in a head shot and swimwear shot if they want to be part of it.

It is very competitive he said: for some it takes up to a year to get in shape for it.

The strongest candidates are selected for the calendar he said.

He said it was voluntary and cabin crew were not obliged to take part.

Ryanair pays for the production of the calendar but all the proceeds go to a different charity each year.

He said he was very disappointed when he read Ms Davison’s comments in the Irish Independent the day after the 2009 calendar was launched.

In response to a question from a journalist, she said if she had been organising it she would have made sure Irish women were involved. And she said any person from any part of Europe would say that Irish women are gorgeous.

Mr McNamara wrote a press release in which he described Ms Davison’s comments as bordering on racism and elitist. He also described her as jealous.

He told the High Court he was trying to defend the calendar and the cabin crew who had taken part in the charity initiative.

He was afraid the criticism by Ms Davison, whom he described as a very influential person, would impact on the sales and the money raised for charity.

He said her comments demonstrated she was jealous because she wasn’t involved in organising it and because the Ryanair calendar girls, who were not models, would have been taking up pages in the newspapers and photos featuring her would not get space.

He said he still believed she was silly to have involved herself in making negative comments about a charity fundraising initiative.

He said he had never accused her of being a racist but said her comments were bordering on racism because she was advocating space should have been reserved in the calendar for Irish girls before others.

He denied that Ryanair was using these proceedings to generate publicity, and that it the press release was an attack on Ms Davison’s integrity.

Senior Counsel Jim O’Callaghan asked Mr McNamara if Ryanair took criticism well. Mr McNamara said the company absolutely did and was a large organisation open to criticism.

Mr O’Callaghan then referred him to another press release written by him in 2008 in which he referred to British Labour MEP Mary Honeyball as Mary Nutball, a ‘political nutjob’ and ‘Mad Mary’.

Ms Honeyball had made some criticisms of the Ryanair calendar.

Mr McNamara said the criticisms made by Ms Honeyball were extreme and raised questions about Ryanair’s safety and they were entitled to react to them.

Earlier Ms Davison said she had simply been giving her opinion when asked by a journalist and gave what she believed to be an innocuous comment.

She said she was aware her father, Chris de Burgh had rung the airline about the press release it had sent out about her but she was not aware he had told the press office he had brought 16 successful defamation actions.