Michael O'Leary Family History


Michael Gerard O’Leary was born on March 20th, 1961 to Timothy (Ted) and Gerarda O’Leary in Dublin.

For the first ten years of his life the family lived in a red-brick house in Mullingar, Westmeath some fifty miles west of Dublin.  Later on, the family moved to a larger house at Lynn on the outskirts of town.  From there Michael went to Trinity College in Dublin where he graduated in 1982.

His entry into the airline industry came about through the unlikely corridor of accountancy. He had been recruited in 1987 to manage the tax affairs of Tony Ryan, the man who had co-founded Ryanair.  By 1994 he had been promoted to be the CEO of Ryanair.

His accountant’s eye for slashing costs and saving cash led him to create the low-budget model for Ryanair.  The financial strategy he pioneered was to use revenue generated from on-board shopping, car hire, hotel bookings and even internet gaming to augment any profits from putting bums on aircraft seats.  And in this Ryanair has been hugely successful.

His passion outside airlines has been horse racing. He has owned horses that have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National.

Cork and Westmeath

O’Leary is a county Cork name and O’Learys have been recorded at Kanturk, a small town some thirty miles north of Cork, since the early 1800’s.

Michael’s grandparents were from Kanturk on both sides.  They were farmers, perhaps the more prosperous on his mother’s side.  Michael himself has always seen himself as a product of farming stock and he understands their values.  They are rural, Catholic, and conservative.

Michael’s parents Timothy and Gerarda married in 1958 and struck out on their own for a new life in Westmeath in the Irish midlands.  They moved to Ballinderry where Timothy’s parents had helped launch Tailteann, a textile business, back in the 1940’s. Their new dream was not a farm, but a business.  Timothy was taking responsibility for his parents’ investment in a knitwear company.

“At that time there were very few wealthy men around,” recalled Albert Reynolds, an old family friend who went on to become the Irish Prime Minister. “Like the rest of us, he was working. But he was always very well dressed and had a good car and all of the family were always well turned out.” And his wife Gerarda was typical of her generation – devoted to her family, deeply religious, and fiercely protective of her children.  

Michael O’Leary’s Family Tree

  • Michael O’Leary, farmer in Kanturk, county Cork
  • – Timothy (Ted) O’Leary (1934-2011)
  • – sisters Mary, Kay and Eva
  • Timothy (Ted) O’Leary m. Gerarda (Ger) in Limerick in 1958
  • – Ashley O’Leary (b. 1959)
  • – Michael O’Leary (b. 1961)
  • – Eddie O’Leary (b. 1962)
  • – Caragh, Valerie and Ged O’Leary (b. 1963-1973)
  • Michael O’Leary m. Anita Farrell (b. 1973) in Westmeath in 2003
  • – four children (Matt, Luke, Tianna, and Zac)


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Written by Colin Shelley

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