Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

'Worst job in Irish PR' now ready for take-off

As business journalists in the relatively small market of Northern Ireland, we get to know many PR firms north and south, and can quickly identify those hardy souls who can cope with any challenge.

Some of the hardiest may now be ready to brace themselves for the ultimate challenge of their profession - acting for the self-styled "world's most popular airline", Ryanair.

Stephen McNamara, its head of communications of many years, is leaving the thrills and spills of no-frills aviation for the tries and scrums of working as director of communications for the Irish Rugby Football Union.

An advertisement seeking his replacement has duly appeared on Ryanair's website, and the airline said it is waiting to see how many "PR luvvies" apply - though there are no clear indications of salary.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary said: "As a company that spends little on advertising, we rely on our communications department to generate loads of free PR as well as responding to the never-ending series of absurd claims and fanciful stories that surface on a daily basis.

"We look forward to recruiting another brave soul to take on the worst job in Irish PR and look forward to grooming the next candidate to take over the high profile and incredibly overpaid position."

Mr McNamara leaves in February after what his boss said would be "an extensive round of lunches and dinners with his many admirers in the media, all paid for by the Ryanair press entertainment budget of €3.94".

The incumbent will do daily battle with newspapers like this one whose journalists are often called into action by peeved-off customers, including one woman who was told she couldn't bring life-saving breathing equipment on board, despite a doctor's letter. The apparatus was eventually squeezed into her friend's carry-on bag, but the pensioner vowed not to fly with them again - and Ryanair's history is littered with the testimony of ex-customers vowing not to fly with them again over their inflexible rules.

Then there's the periodic rows over whether it will charge customers for spending a penny, and the controversies which embroil Michael O'Leary. One notorious episode had O'Leary denounce man-made global warming as "horse****" and suggesting scientists invented the notion of climate change in order to gain research grants.

It's clear gentle souls need not apply for the post of head of communications in Ryanair.

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