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Michael O'Leary
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Michael O'Leary

For the recipient of the Victoria Cross see Michael O'Leary (VC)


Michael O'Leary is the name of three prominent Irish people.

Michael O'Leary (born 1936), is a former leader of the Irish Labour Party (1981-1982). He served as a minister in Liam Cosgrave's Fine Gael-Labour National Coalition government, and Tánaiste of the Republic of Ireland (1981-1982) in Garret FitzGerald's first government. He is now a Judge.

Preceded by:
Frank Cluskey
Leader of the Irish Labour Party
(1981-1982)
Followed by:
\'Dick Spring'


Michael O Leary was born on June 8 1936 in Cork, the son of a publican. He was educated at Presentation College, University College Cork and Columbia University. He became involved in labour politics and was employed in the Irish Trade and General Workers Union (ITGWU). In 1965 he was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Labour candidate. He encouraged the party to take a more left-wing stance in its policies.

O Leary was strongly opposed to the idea of a coalition with Fine Gael, however after the 1969 general election he realised there was a need for a new approach. In 1973 he became Minister for Labour in the coalition government with Fine Gael. In 1977 he was narrowly defeated by Frank Cluskey for the leadership of the party. In 1979 O Leary was elected to the European Parliament. In 1981 Cluskey resigned as Labour leader and O Leary was elected unanimously to succeed him.

In the 1981-1982 O Leary became Tánaiste and Minister for Energy. Shortly after the fall of that government he resigned as leader of the party. He then joined Fine Gael and was elected to the Dáil as a candidate of that party. He move back to his native Cork and practised as a barrister. He failed to be elected in the 1992 general election. In 1997 he was appointed as a District Court Judge.


Michael O'Leary is the Chief Executive Officer of the Irish low cost airline Ryanair. After taking over the reins of the company in 1991, he has transformed the once ailing operation into one of the worlds most profitable airlines, using a low-cost model similar to that of Southwest Airlines of the United States.

O'Leary has a somewhat feiry reputation among both his peers in the airline industry and his with employees. His no-nonsense attitude to management, and his often scathing and outspoken criticisms of the airline industry have now become legendary. In 2004, in what many saw as a publicity stunt, he had his Mercedes re-registered as a taxi so that he could legally make use of Dublin's bus lanes to speed his car journeys around the city.

The dissolution of Ireland's state owned airport authority Aer Rianta, and the shake-up of traditional "full-service" airlines are among his most well known high profile demands.

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