Identity Statement for Richie Ryan

  • Reference code: IE UCDA P272
  • Title: Papers of Richie Ryan (b.1929)
  • Dates: 1927–96
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 25 boxes
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use
  • Allied Material

Biographical History

Born in Dublin in 1929, Richie Ryan was educated at Synge Street CBS, University College Dublin (UCD), where he read economics, politics and law, and the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, subsequently qualifying as a solicitor. A formidable orator, at UCD he was auditor of the Literary & Historical Society (L&H) and subsequently the Solicitors Apprentice Debating Society (1950) and won both societies' gold medal for debating. He continues to serve 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, 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 Teachta Dála (TD) for Dublin South–West in a 1959 bye-election, 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 Shadow Minister for Health and Social Welfare (1966–69) and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Spokesman on Northern Ireland (1970–3).

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, 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 as it established the right to privacy under the Irish Constitution; or perhaps more correctly, the right to bodily integrity under Article 40.3.1. The case also raised a legal controversy due 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.

In 1973 Fine Gael came to power in the National Coalition with the Labour Party, and Ryan became Minister for Finance in an unexpected move which saw Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave appoint him and Garret FitzGerald to the portfolios which the other had exercised as Shadow Ministers; FitzGerald becoming Minister for Foreign Affairs. Ryan’s tenure as Minister for Finance coincided with arguably the most economically challenging period since the 1930s. Ireland's foreign debt increased and the economy steadily worsened, mainly due to the very significant increase in the price of oil occasioned by the embargo imposed by the Arab oil-producing states in the wake of the Yom Kippur War of 1973. In a hostile economic environment, Ryan’s approach was responsible and prudent, and even sought to be progressive in the introduction of capital gains and wealth taxes.

Following the National Coalition Government’s defeat in the 1977 general election, Ryan once again became spokesperson on Foreign Affairs. He also served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in 1973 and from 1977 to 1979, being appointed to Ireland's first and third delegations. 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 European Parliament seat. He retired from his position at the Court of Auditors in 1994.

Archival History

This collections was transferred from Mr Ryan’s then residence in Templeogue, Dublin, to UCD Archives in August 1988.

Scope and Content

Papers originating from Richie Ryan’s position as Opposition spokesman/Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, 1969–73.

Memoranda, minutes, reports, correspondence and other papers originating from Richie Ryan’s position as Minister for Finance, 1973–7 relating to the economy and economic planning; annual estimates and budgets; taxation including the taxation of farm incomes and of wealth; Government policy, including taxation policy, on mining and oil exploration; banking and exchange rates; national pay negotiations and incomes policy; the implementation of the obligation on equal pay; public service staffing and salary issues; and appointments to the boards of state-sponsored bodies.

Papers relating to policy areas such as Northern Ireland including the Sunningdale Agreement and the Council of Ireland; and to EEC regional development and agricultural programmes.

Copies of the texts of speeches, of statements and of interviews; and of budget broadcasts and speeches. Ministerial correspondence. Fine Gael papers including manifestos, policy documents and material relating to performance in government.

Papers relating to the case of Mrs Gladys Ryan v the Attorney General arising from the Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act, 1960.

  • Access: Available by appointment to holders of a UCD Archives reader's ticket. Produced for consultation in digital format.
  • Language: English
  • Finding aid: Descriptive catalogue

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