Italian Reform Minister Umberto Bossi‘s giving the finger to Italy’s national anthem led to an outcry earlier this week, but on Friday it was his supporters who were outraged by Ryanair‘s running of an advertisement showing the minister making the gesture. A photograph of Bossi, middle-finger raised in the insulting gesture, posted under the phrase “Minister Bossi to Italian passengers”, appeared on the Italian website of budget airline, Ryanair.

The photograph accompanies an advertisement in which Ryanair offers flights for 10 euros (15 dollars) while slamming the government’s supporting for Italy’s state-controlled (and bankrupt) airline, Alitalia.
“The (Italian) government supports the high fares of Alitalia, the frequent strikes at Alitalia and can’t care less about the Italian passengers” the ad says.
“It would be better for Ryanair to wipe all this, and in particular its connecting of such false statements with the image of our leader,” said Mario Borghezio, a European Parliament member for the Northern League.
“We are ready to launch a boycott against the company (Ryanair),” Borghezio was quoted as saying, by the ANSA news agency. But we are pretty sure italian taxpayers would like to stop paying for a bankrupt airliner.

The photograph of Bossi, whose party wants devolution of powers to Italy’s regions, was taken last Sunday at a political conference in which he hit out at a line in the national anthem which appears to say Italy is the slave to Rome. “Never again slaves to Rome,” the minister said, raising his middle finger.
The gesture triggered condemnation from opposition politicians, some of whom asked Bossi to resign, but also embarrassment from other members of the conservative coalition that makes up Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi‘s government. Berlusconi said later he had met with Bossi to discuss the matter
and that it had been “resolved”, as always.

Like Berlusconi, Bossi strongly opposed a plan earlier this year by the previous centre-left government to sell the financially-troubled Alitalia to French-Dutch airline Air France-KLM. Air France-KLM subsequently withdrew its bid. Bossi’s aim was to save Malpensa, Northern Italy’s international airport. Ryanair and other airlines allege that the Italian state’s support for Alitalia amounts to unfair competition in contravention of European Union laws. The European Commission seems to agree.

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