Never one to miss a trick, Ryanair has recycled a photo of Northern League leader and Senator Umberto Bossi taken last weekend. His elegantly raised finger was directed then at the national anthem and the notion of Italian unity, something from which he and his green-shirted cronies have done extremely well in the past few years, preaching armed rebellion while enjoying the comforts, and salaries, of parliamentary life in the capital. In a political climate where epithets like piece of shit and shirt-lifter are all too frequent, the gesture barely raised an eyebrow at the time.
Now that naughty Mr O'Leary has turned it back on its perpetrator, though, the mood has changed. Massimo Poledri, a Northern League MP, has accused the Ryanair ad of being "offensive and in bad taste", as though the original gesture were a model of seemliness and grace. Roberto Castelli, minister of justice with the previous Berlusconi circus, has announced an investigation to see whether this kind of advertising is 'compatible' with the use of Italian airports and says he'll never use Ryanair flights again. Well, he didn't actually say 'again'. Given that Italian senators fly business class, he's probably never set foot on one of O'Leary's cheap and often cheerless vehicles. He's more likely to avail himself of one of the hundreds of Alitalia flights which exist purely and simply for the convenience of members of parliament, regardless of profit or the lack of it.
Maurizio Borghezio, Euro MP (god help us), once convicted of trying to burn down some shacks with Romanian immigrants still inside them (two-month sentence, never served), says he's ready to launch a boycott against the company. At least that means he won't be disinfecting the seats used by duskier passengers, something he's known for on Italian trains. As usual, it's a win-win situation for Ryanair, a bit of nose-tweaking on a par with decorating the sides of its fleet with cheeky slogans directed against BA, Lufthansa, Alitalia, etc. You'd never guess it was the biggest airline in Europe...
PS. The Italian on the ad means: "Minister Bossi to Italian passengers: The Government... supports high Alitalia fares, supports the frequent Alitalia strikes and doesn't give a damn about Italian passengers." This is so obviously the truth that it would probably have been wiser to let the ad pass without comment.