The press release was posted on the Ryanair.com website on November 11th, 2008, in reaction to remarks by Ms Davison relating to the absence of any Irish female cabin crew from a Ryanair charity calendar for 2009 featuring international female cabin crew in bikinis and under titles including Miss Cockpit and Miss Fuel Pump.
Ryanair denied defamation and denied the release contained the alleged meanings.
The jury of eight men and four women took just under three hours to reach their majority verdict this evening. They came back with their decision about 6pm and Ms Davison smiled broadly as the verdict was outlined.
The jury were asked whether the release contained any of the following meanings: that Ms Davison was a racist, xenophobic and jealous she was not selected to be in the Ryanair calendar; that she was narrow minded, approves of racism and bias; advocates racism and bias; had no concern for charity and in particular no concern for the Dublin Simon Community to which the proceeds of the calendar were to go. They answered: “Yes.”
The jury also found the allegations were false and defamatory and assessed compensatory damages at €40,000 and aggravated damages at €40,000.
Mr Justice Eamon deValera thanked the jury and discharged them. He adjourned the matter of costs of the five day action and also put a stay on the award to next week. Ryanair’s director of communications Stephen McNamara, who wrote the disputed release, said it intended to appeal.
Later the airline then released a statement saying the award was less than the cost of an appeal to the Supreme Court. “We have decided not to bother appealing as we are very happy with this outcome,” it added.
The action by Miss Davison (27), a model and newspaper columnist, with an address at Cornelscourt, Dublin, arose after Ryanair launched its 2009 charity calendar on November 10th 2008.
Ms Davison was contacted by a journalist from the Irish Independent the same day and asked about the absence of any Irish female cabin crew from the calendar.
Her remarks were published on November 11th, 2008, in an Irish Independent article entitled “Ryanair’s Irish Girls are not keen on take off for calendar”.
She was quoted as saying: “If I was (organising) it, I would have made sure that Irish women were involved because it’s an Irish charity and Irish fundraising. Any person from any part of Europe would say that Irish women are gorgeous”.
Ryanair then posted its release which said: “Ryanair today hit back at comments made by Irish glamour model Rosanna Davison in relation to the absence of Irish cabin crew from Ryanair’s 2009 charity calendar which ‘bordered on racism and demonstrated an elitist attitude against Ryanair’s international cabin crew’.”
“Ryanair confirmed all cabin crew were invited to apply for the calendar and that while only a small number of Irish staff applied, one Irish girl was invited to participate but was unavailable to do so. Ryanair pointed out that while it is registered in Ireland, it is Europe’s largest international airline and is proud to be one of the largest Irish employers of international staff.
The release, written by Mr McNamara, quoted Mr McNamara as saying: “There is nothing more unattractive than jealousy. We cannot believe that Ireland’s former Miss World would engage in such narrow minded remarks about a calendar which will raise money for charity. We conducted a fair and unbiased selection process for our calendar participants.”
The release also stated: “Ryanair does not participate in tokenism...The strongest candidates were selected irrespective of race. This narrow-minded attitude is disgraceful”
In evidence, Ms Davison said she was absolutely shocked and upset when she saw the words used in the release. She did not believe the calendar should be limited to one nationality. Of all people to call racist and elite, she was not such a person as she worked with and for people of all nationalities. Her family was also upset.
She said she considered a charity calendar a great idea and had herself participated in one, Models for Moldova. She felt her comments were “considered” and “very measured” and there was no intention to insult anyone.
Her solicitor Paul Tweed wrote to Ryanair looking for an apology and donation to charity but Ryanair’s response to her solicitor’s “reasonable” letters was aggressive, “incredibly juvenile” and “downright rude”, she said.
In his evidence, Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said he would not apologise to Ms Davison over the release and said he regarded her decision to bring proceedings as “juvenile”.
He wrote the release and posted it on the website to prevent the sales of the charity calendar being damaged and to defend the staff who participated in it, he said. He had not made comments about Ms Davison herself but rather about comments she made in relation to the calendar. Mr McNamara disagreed that Ryanair does not take criticism well or that it is a “corporate bully”.
The trial also heard Ms Davison’s father, singer Chris de Burgh, had contacted Ryanair about the release and threatened he would sue unless his daughter got an apology. Mr de Burgh had said he had himself sued 16 times in other cases and won.
In his closing speech to the jury, Martin Hayden SC, for Ryanair, said less than 1,000 people based in Ireland viewed the press release. This put in context what was a “storm in a teacup” and Ms Davison was making it a “federal production” of it where there were 1,000 hits on the website and the claim was limited to the jurisdiction of Ireland.
Mr Hayden said Ms Davison regularly gave quotes to the media and she was very well versed in the media. She knew, in giving the quotes to the newspaper, it was going to be for a particular agenda and that the journalist had to choose an angle for the story, he said.
She had given her comments without any knowledge of how the girls were chosen for the calendar, he added.
In his address to the jury, Declan Doyle SC, for Ms Davison, said she had no option but to sue particularly when Ryanair responded in an aggressive and bullying way to her complaint about the damage caused to her reputation.
When her solicitors wrote seeking an apology, Ryanair’s response was “how dare you and unless you back off we will give the correspondence to the media,” counsel said. “That was the kind of bullying and threatening behaviour of Ryanir in this case,” he said. Her only option was to sue or to “crawl under a stone”.
Ryanair’s suggestion that saying someone was bordering on being a racist was not the same as calling them a racist was “nonsensical”, counsel said. He urged the jury to use its common and street sense to come up with a figure which would appropriately compensate Ms Davison for the actions of this “enormous bullying defendant called Ryanair”.
Thank you Rosanna for standing up to BULLYING Ryanair.McNamara ''the muppet'' at Ryanair are guilty of so much damage to Probationary Cabin Crew and Crew at Ryanair...He is the spin Doctor at Ryanair and it gives me great pleasure to see you win this case...
Charity Calendar,is a Lie, just a way to promote Ryanair...100.000 Euro was given to Rough Sleeper Team,if all calendars were sold.Ryanair should have given the cost of a court case to Rough Sleeper Team,instead of fighting their Lie's....
Ryanair are a “corporate bully”.and yet again, wasting Shareholders money.......
ALL MANAGEMENT AT RYANAIR ''The Slave Labour Airline '' MUST BE ''TERMINATED''