Richie Ryan (politician)

Richard Ryan (27 February 1929 – 17 March 2019) was an Irish Fine Gael politician who served as Minister for Finance and Minister for the Public Service from 1973 to 1977 and a Member of the European Court of Auditors from 1986 to 1989. He served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from 1973 to 1977 and 1979 to 1984. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1959 to 1982.[2]

Richie Ryan
Minister for Finance
In office
14 March 1973  5 July 1977
TaoiseachLiam Cosgrave
Preceded byGeorge Colley
Succeeded byGeorge Colley
Member of the European Court of Auditors
In office
4 January 1986  15 June 1989
Preceded byChris O'Malley
Succeeded byBarry Desmond
Minister for the Public Service
In office
1 November 1973  5 July 1977
TaoiseachLiam Cosgrave
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byGeorge Colley
Member of the European Parliament
In office
1 July 1979  20 May 1989
In office
1 July 1973  9 May 1977
Teachta Dála
In office
June 1981  February 1982
ConstituencyDublin South-East
In office
June 1977  June 1981
ConstituencyDublin Rathmines West
In office
June 1969  June 1977
ConstituencyDublin South-Central
In office
July 1959  June 1969
ConstituencyDublin South-West
Personal details
Richard Ryan

(1929-02-27)27 February 1929
Sandymount, Dublin, Ireland
Died17 March 2019(2019-03-17) (aged 90)
Clonskeagh, Dublin, Ireland
Political partyFine Gael
Mairead King
(m. 1956; died 2017)
Children5, including Cillian
EducationSynge Street CBS
Alma materUniversity College Dublin


Ryan was born in Dublin in 1929. He was educated at Synge Street CBS, University College Dublin (UCD), where he studied economics and jurisprudence, and the Incorporated Law School of Ireland, subsequently qualifying as a solicitor. A formidable orator, at UCD he was auditor of the Literary and Historical Society (the L&H) and subsequently of the Solicitors Apprentice Debating Society (1950), and won both societies' gold medals for debating. He served as one of the Honorary Vice-Presidents of the L&H.

After qualifying, Ryan worked for a number of solicitors' firms before establishing a private practice in Dame Street in Dublin, in which he remained an active partner until appointed to ministerial office in 1973.


He first held political office when he was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fine Gael TD for Dublin South-West in a 1959 by-election,[3] and retained his seat until he retired at the February 1982 general election to concentrate on his European Parliament seat.

In opposition, Ryan served as Fine Gael Spokesperson on Health and Social Welfare (1966–1970) and on Foreign Affairs and Northern Ireland (1970–1973). During this period he was involved in a number of important pro bono legal cases, including the 1963 challenge in the High Court, and then, on appeal, in the Supreme Court of Ireland in 1964, by Gladys Ryan (no relation) on the constitutionality of the fluoridation of the water supply. While the court ruled against Gladys Ryan, the case remains a landmark, for it established the right to privacy under the Constitution of Ireland (or, perhaps more precisely, the right to bodily integrity under Article 40.3.1.). The case also raised a legal controversy, owing to the introduction by Justice Kenny of the concept of unenumerated rights. Other notable cases involving Richie Ryan include a challenge to the rules governing the drafting of constituency boundaries, and an unsuccessful attempt to randomise the order of candidates on ballot papers (owing to a preponderance of TDs with surnames from the first part of the alphabet).

Fine Gael came to power in a coalition with the Labour Party in 1973, and Ryan became Minister for Finance. He presided over a tough four years in the National Coalition under Liam Cosgrave, during the 1970s oil crisis when, in common with most western economies, Ireland faced a significant recession. He was variously lampooned as "Richie Ruin" on the Irish satire show Hall's Pictorial Weekly, and as "Red Richie" for his government's introduction of a wealth tax. Following the 1977 general election Fine Gael was out of power, and Ryan once again became Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs.

Ryan also served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in 1973 and from 1977 to 1979, being appointed to Ireland's first delegation and third delegation. At the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979, he was elected for the Dublin constituency, and was re-elected in 1984, heading the poll on both occasions.

On being appointed to the European Court of Auditors in 1986, he resigned his seat and was succeeded by Chris O'Malley. He served as a member of the Court of Auditors from 1986 to 1994, being replaced by Barry Desmond. After retirement he continued in a number of roles, including as a Commissioner of Irish Lights (until 2004) and a spell as Chairman of the Irish Red Cross in 1998.

He was the father of the economist and academic Professor Cillian Ryan.[1] He died on 17 March 2019, aged 90.[4]


  1. "Mairéad RYAN (née King)". Funeral Times. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  2. "Richie Ryan". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  3. "Richie Ryan". Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  4. "Former Minister for Finance Richie Ryan dies aged 90". RTÉ News. 17 March 2019.
Political offices
Preceded by
George Colley
Minister for Finance
Succeeded by
George Colley
Minister for the Public Service
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