Patrick Ryan, a Man of Skill and Zeal
LONDON (AP) _ Patrick Ryan boasts of his skill in electronics, carpentry, mechanics and welding, and he made a mark in the Roman Catholic Church by raising money for African missions.
Those were the talents, according to the British government, that the Roman Catholic priest brought to the deadly work of the Irish Republican Army.
Ryan, it is alleged in extradition warrants rejected by Belgium and then by Ireland, conspired to commit murder and cause explosions in Britain between 1975 and 1988.
According to press reports attributed to British government sources, Ryan supplied the timers for scores of bombs and solicited cash and gold from Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.
A lean, clean-shaven man with a receding hairline, the 58-year-old Ryan is said by his brother Joe to able to speak nine languages and fly airplanes and run six miles a day.
″I am a member generally of the Catholic church,″ Ryan said recently. ″I have been a member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association since the age of 12, and I am still a teetotaler.
″After that I belong to no other organization either overt or covert.
″So, do I belong to the IRA? I did not, never have, am not, and have no intention,″ he told the Tipperary Star on Nov. 28, his only interview since his arrest.
Ryan is the focus of a diplomatic impasse across the Irish Sea.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wants to put him on trial, but Ireland’s attorney general, John Murray, concluded that the priest could not get a fair trial in Britain.
Ryan vowed that he will never stand before a British court, and staged a 22-day hunger strike in Belgium after the British sought his extradition.
Ryan was born June 26, 1930 in Rossmore, County Tipperary, one of six children in a farming family.
He attended the Christian Brothers school and the Pallottine College in nearby Thurles, and was ordained June 6, 1954.
″While he was with us, we could see a man who was zealous, hard-working and very orthodox,″ said the Rev. Donal McCarthy, rector of the students’ house of the Pallottine Fathers of Thurles. ″In many ways he could have been an idealist.″
The young priest was assigned to mission work in the diocese of Mbulu in Tanzania, where he was involved in well-digging projects. His colleagues, according to The Sunday Times, recalled him as a pastor who cared both for the spiritual and economic needs of his flock.
In 1967, Ryan was assigned as a curate in an east London church. In 1970 he returned to Ireland to promote African missions.
At that time, Ryan reportedly became preoccupied with the struggles in Northern Ireland, where the mainly Catholic IRA has waged an armed campaign against British rule.
In 1973, Ryan rejected a transfer to a church in England.
″He told me at that time that he felt in conscience bound to work for the dependents of prisoners and those who had died in Northern Ireland,″ said the Rev. William Hanly, the Pallottine provincial in Dublin.
Ryan said in the Star interview that: ″I would travel through the airports principally of Paris and Rome to various parts of the world collecting a few pence - more than a few pence, a lot of money.″
″But I found that I would be just stopped at a frontier ... and I would be given no reason other than ‘you can’t pass.’ So I decided if I couldn’t pass one way I was going to pass another way.″ Thus, he said, he traveled on a forged passport.
According to British authorities, one of Ryan’s contributions to the IRA was discovering a gadget called Memopark, a timer intended to remind a motorist when the parking meter expired.
Ryan allegedly bought every Memopark, some 400 of them, in stock at a novelty shop in Zurich, Switzerland in 1975. Subsequently, British sources have said, remains of the timers were found at the scene of 185 bombings in Northern Ireland and three in London.
Ryan was arrested in Geneva in 1976, and timers were found in his possession.
Ryan also went free when Scotland Yard was unable to develop evidence that he had committed any offense on Swiss soil.
He was arrested, and freed, again in France in December 1976, in Italy in February 1977 and in Luxembourg the next month.
Ryan’s last arrest was on June 30 in Brussels. Belgian police said they found found timers, circuitry and manuals about bombs in his possession.
″In my living room they found all kinds of books,″ Ryan told the Star. ″I am an excellent mechanic, very good with electronics, a good plumber, carpenter, welder. I have a variety of books on all these subjects. I have also books on music as I play the mandolin and banjo.″