Tuesday 17 September 2019

'Micheál did as much as he could in a very, very short life' - Mother pays poignant tribute to Co Clare aid worker killed in Ethiopian plane crash


Passionate: Micheál Ryan, who died in the crash. Photo: World Food Programme/PA
Passionate: Micheál Ryan, who died in the crash. Photo: World Food Programme/PA
Jane Last

Jane Last

Micheál Ryan embraced life and wanted to make a difference in the lives of the marginalised and downtrodden, his mother said.

Christina Ryan led the tributes to her son, who was due to turn 40 later this month, after his death in the plane crash in Ethiopia on Sunday.

Speaking on Clare FM's 'Morning Focus' programme yesterday, she told broadcaster Gavin Grace her son had worked in "dangerous situations" before, and the news that he lost his life in a plane crash came as a terrible shock.

Micheál (39), from Lahinch in Co Clare but living in Cork, had been working as an engineer for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in recent years.

A father of two children aged three and seven months, he was married to wife Naoise. The family was due to relocate to Rome in the next few weeks for Micheál's work.

He was travelling with six colleagues from the WFP aboard the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft bound for Nairobi, when it crashed just six minutes after take-off from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

Workers comb the wreckage of the Ethiopian Airlines flight near Bishoftu, south of Addis Ababa, yesterday. AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene
Workers comb the wreckage of the Ethiopian Airlines flight near Bishoftu, south of Addis Ababa, yesterday. AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene

Ms Ryan told the Clare FM programme she was contacted by her daughter-in-law Naoise on Sunday morning about the crash. "His wife Naoise, who's in Cork at the moment with their two children, rang me in the morning and she was in a state and she said that Micheál's plane, she thought it had gone down, and she thought he was on it.

"And I had heard earlier on, I knew he was going to Nairobi, and I had heard earlier on that a plane had gone down but I just forgot about it because I said surely he can't have been on it.

"There are other planes going out. And I just didn't, I didn't think he could be on it and that such a thing would have happened," she said.

"We couldn't believe that actually it had happened. We were waiting to hear that he wasn't on the plane, but then we got confirmation. We knew that there were no survivors and we became aware of that. Unreal," she said.

She paid tribute to her son, citing the work he had done in the fight against Ebola and his work to help the Rohingya people in Bangladesh. She said his family and his work were his main passions.


"It was a passion. His work was a passion. And his family was a passion. He loved his wife and kids and was always there for them. And he embraced life with a passion."

Ms Ryan said her son kept her fully informed about his work. She said she last spoke to him the day before the crash, and he had told her that he hoped his three-year-old daughter would follow in his footsteps in that she would dream and travel a lot, helping people.

"The whole thing was about helping people and making a difference in society. And helping the marginalised and the downtrodden internationally," she said.

"And he did that. He did a lot. He did as much as he could within a very, very short life.

"I mean, he's been in Afghanistan, he's been in a lot of dangerous situations.

"We didn't realise this trip to Nairobi was going to be fatal. He has been in earthquake zone regions and he's been in situations that have been very difficult. And he survived all of those. And this took him and we didn't expect it, you know. We didn't think this was really a big danger area.

"He was brilliant with his family and his kids. He lived for his family and his kids and he was so enthusiastic with them.

"And Naoise, who was always there ... and she was great in that she managed the kids while he went off and followed his dream and their dreams, in that it was her dream as well as his."

Ms Ryan said they had been looking forward to celebrating her grandson's christening and her son's 40th birthday in Rome next week.

"We were supposed to be going over next week to Rome for his 40th birthday and Christening of [their baby son]. We had our flights and everything to go.

"We all loved him. All our lives, we loved him. Even as a child growing up, he was different.

"He was just different. He was just a different child than anybody else, as far as I'm concerned.

"There for all his family. There for his immediate family. There for everybody. His friends.

"He was just available. He wanted to give, and give, and give, to do of all of this. And he felt he was making a difference."

Irish Independent

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