OUTSPOKEN Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has stoked new controversy with his views on family life, saying mothers with young children would “prefer” to stay at home.
The father of four said he thought men should not be present at the birth of their children, adding that the idea of paternity leave drove him mad.
In an interview, Mr O’Leary also said men who wanted to spend time with their young children were “feigning interest”, adding: “We sow the seed, women have the babies, and after that we provide.”
The budget airline boss, who said two of the nine board members at Ryanair were female, insisted he was not opposed to mothers in the workforce but felt that most, if they had a choice, would stop working when they had young children.
Of fathers taking paternity leave to spend time with their newborns, he said it drove him “mad” – when his four children were born, he did not take any time off. He said: “I don’t want to be at home with young babies, breastfeeding and changing nappies. This bonding stuff is rubbish.
“Men tend to bond with their children when they are walking, talking, following football – then we have something to say to them. When they are zero to nine months old, all they are interested in is milk and mammaries – it’s useless.”
Speaking about fathers being present at the birth of their children, he said: “What are men doing on the delivery ward? We are redundant in the process, but there is an enormous pressure to be there, holding hands and saying push.
“I grew up on a farm, so there was nothing I hadn’t seen before, but a lot of men are genuinely traumatised by the experience.”
The businessman said people saw him as “Jesus, Superman or an odious little s***” but went on to compare himself with Jesus, saying: “A prophet in his own time. I love the line in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, ‘He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy’. That’s me.”
Mr O’Leary also called for the burka to be banned in the UK and said the country was “leaning over far too much for some of these minority religions”.
He said: “I think we should ban burkas here in the UK. If you go to Saudi Arabia and they say the ladies have to veil up, you respect the local culture.
“If you want to come and live in western society, I don’t think you should be allowed to walk around with some inalienable right to cover yourself up with only your eyes looking out.”
Mr O’Leary also said he did not believe in global warming, although he did not deny that climate change was happening. “Temperatures have been moving up and down for 200 years, yet every time you have a couple of warm summers they go, ‘Oooh, global warming’,” he said.
“There’s a degree of arrogance in thinking that any man-made phenomenon is going to change nature. Trying to reverse it by taxing air travel is absurd. We should encourage more driving and flying around because that kind of economic activity is what generates great wealth.”
His comments about mothers and paternity leave were fiercely criticised by one of the UK’s leading work-life balance charities, Working Families.
Elizabeth Gardiner, its head of policy, said his comments were out of step.
“Many mothers choose to work, others have to to support their families financially. Indeed, more women are breadwinners than ever before, and research shows fathers want to spend more time with their children – 82 per cent of men working full-time say they would like this.”
Ms Gardiner added: “New ‘shared parental leave’ arrangements will make it easier for fathers to take time off to look after children and this will help challenge these outmoded ideas about who should work and who should care for children.”
Ryanair recently hit the headlines after introducing fully allocated seating on all flights. The announcement came as the airline faces its first drop in annual profits in five years, with the company admitting its “abrupt culture” might have become a problem.