Thursday 22 August 2019

'Minister for Hardship' Richie Ryan leaves more than €3m in his will

Richie Ryan
Richie Ryan
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

Former finance minister Richie Ryan, dubbed 'Richie Ruin, Minister for Hardship' during his term of office, has left more than €3m in his will.

Mr Ryan is remembered for introducing the wealth tax, against the wishes of senior figures in Fine Gael, during the largely unpopular 1973-1977 Liam Cosgrave-led coalition government. But he was also responsible for the abolition of death duties and the introduction of the unmarried mothers' allowance.

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According to papers lodged in the Probate Office in Dublin last week, Richard 'Richie' Ryan, a solicitor, of Ardilea, Roebuck, Clonskeagh, Dublin, who died on March 17, left an estate valued at €3,370,874.

A devout Catholic, Mr Ryan, who died aged 90, was elected to the Dail as a Fine Gael TD in 1959, having joined the party as a 17-year-old schoolboy. He served in various capacities until 1973 when, to the surprise of many, he was appointed Finance Minister by Liam Cosgrave in preference to Garret FitzGerald.

He was a frequent target on the Telefis Eireann programme Hall's Pictorial Weekly hosted by Frank Hall.

Speaking after his retirement, he said he didn't have time to watch the show as he was too busy working at a time when Ireland faced numerous economic challenges, not least the oil crisis.

He said criticism was part of the job when serving as a minister, adding: "If you don't like the heat, you don't go into the kitchen. Once you're there, you must do your job."

In the face of an economic recession, he introduced capital gains tax on property in an attempt to end land speculation and increased VAT and excise duty, making his government highly unpopular and leading to Jack Lynch's landslide victory in 1977.

He was elected to the European Parliament for Dublin in the first direct elections in 1979. Disappointed at not being appointed a minister in FitzGerald's government of 1981, he left domestic politics the following year.

He served as an MEP before being appointed a member of the European Court of Auditors. Richie Ryan was also chairman of the International Monetary Fund for a time and served for 40 years as a commissioner of Irish Lights, and also had an active role in the Irish Red Cross.

He suffered a serious fall in 1995 and was confined to a wheelchair in later years.

After Mr Ryan's death in March, he was described by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as having given "distinguished and selfless service" during his career.

Former Taoiseach John Bruton said Mr Ryan was "the most radical minister for finance ever. His commitment to social justice was realistic, rather than rhetorical. The changes he made in extending the tax base, through capital and other taxes, and his simultaneous widening of social welfare coverage, were not equalled by any other minister for finance.

"To have undertaken such changes at a time of economic contraction due to the aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis, was truly remarkable."

Mr Ryan was predeceased by his wife Mairead, and is survived by five children, Declan, Cillian, Ultan, Aoife and Blathnaid.

Sunday Independent

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