O'Leary: 'It's unfair to blame the bankers'

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said the taxpayer should take up to 99% of the equity in the main Irish banks and sell down the stakes gradually as the sector recovers over the next few years. O'Leary said the government was too compliant to bondholders in the leading banks. "F**k the bondholders, they'll give you money in the morning,'' he said.

O'Leary said he was opposed to blanket nationalisation of the banks, but an alternative was to leave the banks with just a tiny privately held portion of shares and as the banks restored their profits, the stakes in AIB and Bank of Ireland could be sold back into the market.

O'Leary said there was no point in placing all the blame for the current crisis on bank executives. "You have to put it down to the bubble. It's unfair to blame the bankers for it all. We were all to blame: people were punting on property, people were punting on shares, people were punting on everything; we are all collectively to blame,'' he told the Sunday Tribune.

He said while it was important for Nama now to proceed, the government should only have paid current market prices for the assets and capitalised the banks afterward as required. He said the only bank in Ireland "operating properly'' was ACC, which is ultimately owned by Dutch lender Rabobank.

"We are broke,'' O'Leary said of the Irish economy and he said full implementation of the McCarthy report was the only way to start the process of improving the public finances. "Start with the quangos: there is about 1,000 of them; that would be a good start,'' he said.

He was "no longer shocked'' at the revelations coming from Irish banks, he said. "I am not shocked by anything anymore, but the key issue now is what are we going to do about it? How are going to get out of this situation?''

O'Leary said he did not foresee Aer Lingus or Aer Arann surviving in the next three years.

Aer Arann was "irrelevant'', he said, and was only able to survive thanks to a €15m a year subvention from the government. He said these are paid out via public-service obligation levies (PSOs).