Dublin-born Qantas boss awarded top Australian honour

Alan Joyce's same-sex marriage stance sees him recognised by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, alongside the likes of Cate Blanchett...

Dublin-born Qantas boss awarded top Australian honour

Qantas Airways chief executive Alan Joyce speaks to media Wednesday May 10th, 2017. Picture by: Rod McGuirk/AP/Press Association Images

The Irish chief executive of Qantas Airways has been given one of Australia's highest honours.

Alan Joyce, who originally hails from Tallaght, was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia as part of the birthday honours of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

The illustrious list also receiving the accolade included Academy award-winning actor Cate Blanchett and current Australian governor-general Peter Cosgrove.

The head of the world-famous airline has occupied the position since November 2008 and been credited with turning around the Flying Kangaroo's fortunes during his occasionally controversial tenure.

Not only was he being recognised for his services to aviation and tourism, but also his support of indigenous education and gender and marriage equality.

The latter vocal stance earned him a far less welcome "treat" last month, when he was hit in the face with a pie by a devout Christian protester whilst delivering a speech at a business breakfast in Perth. 

Speaking to The Australian after receiving the Companion, Joyce said:

“It’s a great credit to Australia because it shows this country is a true meritocracy; that an Irish immigran­t who came here 21 years ago can run an iconic brand like Qantas and receive one of the highest awards in the honours list shows you how welcoming and open and fantastic a country this is.

"One thing I love about Australia is the fair-go mentality.

"Everybody should have an equal go.

"People who try to impose their opinions – try to intimidate or get people to back down because maybe they have a weaker or lesser voice in some way – it's just something that is against the whole philosophy of this country.

"You have to stand up to that."

He also took the time to praise his parents, saying:

"I didn't fly in an aircraft until I started work at Aer Lingus at 23 because my family couldn't afford to fly anywhere on holidays.

"This is why my parents have always been my heroes, because of their hard work and their dedication to making education the big leveller for people.

"I think that was the reason myself and my brothers all did really well – thanks to the dedication of my parents."

The openly-gay Joyce joined Bobby Kerr on Down to Business last year, saying of Ireland's marriage equality vote:

"It got great coverage in Australia and a lot of people were paying attention to it. And the civilised way in which the campaign was done here in Ireland... The way the debate occurred... I think the whole world looked at how Ireland has changed."

He recalled how homosexuality was only recently decriminalised when he left Ireland in 1996.

"To see that change in 20 years to be the first country in the world to have it [same-sex marriage] in a referendum is absolutely phenomenal."