Michael O'Leary, the outspoken chief executive of budget airline Ryanair, has said he expects to stand down within the next "two or three years", but only when his company has succeeded in taking control of Aer Lingus.

Speaking to Irish radio, Mr 0'Leary admitted that, having twice failed to take control of Aer Lingus in the last three years, an outright bid for the Irish flag-carrier is now unlikely. But, he said, "we'll let them mismanage Aer Lingus for the next two years, and they'll then come back to ask us to rescue it."

He added that "in two or three years' time, I expect to be gone out of Ryanair". He has been in charge at what is Europe's biggest low-cost airline for 15 years.

The Irish economy, a few years ago one of the fastest growing and most dynamic in Europe, has struggled to attract cheap labour and debt financing since the economic downturn. Despite the structural economic difficulties, Mr O'Leary said he laid the blame at the door of the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. He described Ahern as a "feckless ditherer," who had "pissed away" Ireland's recent economic achievements.