MICHAEL O’LEARY WAS on a roll, and the crowd was loving it.
About 200 people had packed into the US Ambassador’s residence in the Phoenix Park on a dull September evening to hear a talk on the aviation industry.
While there was also an executive from Boeing, one of the biggest aviation companies in the world, at the event, there was little doubt that the Ryanair boss was the star of the show.
The two were taking part in a fairly loose talk about the airline business, when O’Leary started railing on one of his favourite topics, how much he hates the practise of checked-in luggage on airlines.
“Why do we take bags off you just to take them back on arrival?” he asked.
Never shy about taking a cut at a rival, he swiftly added: “Unless you’re flying with British Airways, in which case 50% of you will never see your bags again at all.”
Afterwards a woman watching in the audience member turned to the person next to her, and asked admiringly: “Isn’t he great?”
Business journalists share a similar love for O’Leary because he is one of the few people in the corporate world who speaks in plain English – and is always good for a quotable line.
A review of the best Irish business quotes could almost entirely be filled out by the brash airline CEO. However, several other CEOs, politicians and companies did manage to grab our attention with just a few choice words, and here are some of the more memorable:
“Keep the recovery going” (January 8)
The now-infamous phrase used as Fine Gael’s campaign slogan during the party’s disastrous attempt to get its coalition with Labour back into government.
“No one thing led to the banking crisis”. (January 27)
One of the conclusions of the government’s banking inquiry, which finally stumbled over the finish line early in the year after it looked like it could collapse before Christmas.
“Anybody who objects to these figures, who casts doubt over these figures, they now have an obligation to put the evidence forward because assertions that I’m wrong cut no ice. Prove it, prove it!” (February 7)
Finance Minister Michael Noonan hits back at claims that suggestions that Fine Gael got its sums wrong in relation to that choice much-repeated bit of election jargon, ‘fiscal space’.
“Your landlord, European Property Fund plc, has decided to sell the above property and therefore will require vacant possession of such.” (March 13)
The notice received by more than 200 families in Tyrrelstown, many of whom were renting from indebted property developer Twinlite. They received the notices following a deal between Goldman Sachs and Twinlite.
“I think it’s fair to say that the overwhelming majority of people are not supportive of this – that’s clear – but no transport dispute is ever popular.” (April 7)
Siptu organiser Owen Reidy acknowledged the unpopularity of the Luas strikes, which kicked off months of pay disputes and industrial unrest in the private and public sectors.
“I’ll put in what it takes, I’m in now and that’s it. What it takes is what it takes.” (May 7)
Multimillionaire John Griffin on his financial support for Mayo TV station Irish TV. Griffin withdrew his support just a few months later, forcing the company into examinership.
“There have been commercial differences between me and the stakeholders arising from the recent restructuring of the company. I have agreed to stand aside from my contract with Quinn Industrial Holdings” (May 20)
Sean Quinn, once Ireland’s richest man, agrees to leave Quinn Industrial Holdings, the company that took over some of the operations of some of his former empire.
“Whatever the outcome … the vote will fundamentally change our relationship with our nearest neighbour and most important trading partner.” (June 24)
Danny McCoy, the head of Irish business group Ibec, sums up the feeling among Irish business leaders in the immediate aftermath of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.
“(The public) are entitled to rely on honesty and integrity. In this case honesty and integrity were sorely lacking.” (July 29)
Judge Martin Nolan as he jailed three former Anglo Irish Bank executives, John Bowe, Willie McAteer and Denis Casey, for conspiring in a “deceitful and corrupt” €7 billion scheme to hoodwink the market.
“Perhaps if the majority of construction companies took such a stance, companies would think twice about treating ordinary workers in such a fashion, and the overall climate might change for the better. (August 5)
One year on from the sudden closure of Clery’s, building company Lambstongue refused to work on the redevelopment of the iconic O’Connell Street building due to the way in which the store’s former staff were treated by the business’s new owners.
“After having endured the collapse of its housing market less than a decade ago, Ireland has lately been experiencing a blistering recovery in prices. Is Ireland setting itself up for another devastating crash?” (August 12)
Former Central Bank director Stefan Gerlach worries about the effects of the housing crisis, which dominated much of the political and business agenda throughout the year.
“No one did anything wrong here and we need to stand together. Ireland is being picked on and this is unacceptable. It’s total political crap.” (September 1)
Apple boss Tim Cook slams the EU’s ruling that Ireland gave his company illegal state aid worth up to €13 billion over a period of more than a decade to 2014.
“There’s forty thousand in that, and it’s in bundles of two, Frank.” (September 7)
Northern Irish property developer and Nama borrower John Miskelly is secretly recorded making a £40,000 cash payment to Frank Cushnahan, a businessman was working as an adviser to Nama in Northern Ireland. Controversy then blew up about the sale of Nama’s portfolio of Northern Ireland loans, dubbed Project Eagle.
“(RTÉ is a) rat-infested North Korean union shop. I can’t turn on the bloody 9 O’Clock News without having to see Ingrid Miley’s face giving me the latest spew from the Trotskyites and all the rest of it.” (October 9)
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary launches a blistering attack on the state broadcaster at a behind-closed-doors Fine Gael pre-Budget fundraising event.
“Is the media objective when it is talking and writing about itself? The media industry in Ireland is in decline.” (October 26)
Billionaire businessman Denis O’Brien hits out at a report which raises concerns about media ownership in Ireland.
“Employment growth was 2.9% during the first half of the year, an exceptional pace by European standards.” (November 22)
Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille notes that the number of people employed across Ireland hit its highest level since mid-2008, with more than 2 million recorded as in work, as many areas of the economy continued to recover.