Irish father-of-two killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash was due to take up new job in Italy
Father-of-two from Co Clare among 157 dead as plane crashes on take-off
The Irish aid worker who died on an Ethiopian Airlines plane which crashed just minutes after take-off has been hailed as a compassionate man who devoted his entire life to helping others.
Development aid worker with the United Nations Michael 'Mick' Ryan was the only Irish citizen on board the four-month-old aircraft that crashed yesterday en route from Ethiopia to Kenya, resulting in the deaths of all 157 passengers and crew.
Mr Ryan, a native of Lahinch, Co Clare, and a father of two young children, had been working as an engineer with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) over recent years.
He had just redeployed to the WFP Rome office. He and his wife Naoise were due to move to Italy soon with their children from their home in Cork city. He died along with six of his WFP colleagues in the crash.
Locals in Lahinch and Ennistymon, where the Ryan family hail from, were heartbroken at the news.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Mr Ryan, saying: "Michael was doing life-changing work in Africa."
Executive director of the WFP David Beasley said Mr Ryan and his colleagues were "willing to travel and work far from their homes and loved ones to help make the world a better place to live. That was their calling".
President Michael D Higgins said the tragedy had affected so many, with passengers from more than 30 countries on the flight.
He said: “In particular, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Michael Ryan.”
Ennistymon priest Fr Willie Cummins said the town was in shock at the death of Mr Ryan.
Outside the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Lahinch, one woman said it was “absolutely shocking”.
“I heard it this afternoon but I was praying it wasn’t true and that there had been some mistake. They are a very well-known and respected family here,” she added.
Another man said he spotted the engineer around Clare at Christmas.
Prayers were offered at all Masses in Lahinch, Ennistymon and Milltown Malbay for his family.
Mr Ryan’s immediate family was last night making plans to fly to Ethiopia to assist with the identification and repatriation of his remains.
Tragically, the accident occurred just weeks before Mr Ryan was to relocate with his wife Naoise and their two children, the youngest of whom is understood to be just seven-months-old, from their home in Cork city to Rome.
Last night the WFP confirmed Mr Ryan’s death and said that seven of their team had died in the crash. It said Mr Ryan and his colleagues strived to create a better world.
“I can very, very sadly confirm that Michael Ryan worked for WFP and was based at our headquarters in Rome and was among those killed on ET 302,” Mr Beasley said, adding it was a “profoundly sad day” for the WFP.
Mr Ryan was described in Co Clare last night as “a wonderful, compassionate man who lived for his job of helping others”. He is the son of Christina and the late Jack Ryan.
His mother is a retired teacher who was based at Scoil Mhuire in Ennistymon. His father Jack, who died in 2013, was an accountant in Clare.
Mr Ryan is also survived by his siblings, Cristin, Siobhan and Tiernan.
In a special message, the Lahinch Parish last night extended the sympathies of the entire community to the Ryan family.
“We pray for all who have died so unexpectedly in this tragedy, their families, colleagues and friends.
“We pray for all working at the accident site at this present moment. We hope that God will bless everyone in this tragedy for so many people.”
Mr Ryan was one of Ireland’s most respected aid workers. He had worked on various UN programmes across the world, including high-profile projects in both Africa and Asia.
He was especially proud of a project he had worked on for the UN in Bangladesh.
He was an engineering graduate of the National University of Ireland Galway and a keen environmental campaigner.
He had been closely following the controversial flood defence programme proposed for Cork. Mr Ryan was a supporter of the Save Cork City campaign, which aimed to avoid the use of high quay walls in the city centre.
He had also put his engineering skills and knowledge to use in various heritage conservation projects, including the Fota House Project.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan paid tribute to Mr Ryan, saying he was “committed to the highest ideals of fighting world poverty and providing food for all”.