Cathal Ryan (48), son of Ryanair founder, passes away


Cathal Ryan, the eldest son of the late entrepreneur Tony Ryan, passed away at his home in Celbridge, Co Kildare yesterday after a short battle with cancer.

Mr Ryan, who was a pilot and captain, was 48. In a statement, his family said Mr Ryan was surrounded by his children, Cillian, Claudia, Danielle and Cameron and by his mother Mairéad and brothers Declan and Shane.

His death came just 11 weeks after the passing of Tony Ryan, who died from pancreatic cancer.

Mr Ryan joined Ryanair as a pilot in 1990 and served on the board of the airline from 1996 until 2002. He also flew for Air Lanka.

In addition, Mr Ryan was a director of Irelandia Investments, a vehicle used by the Ryan family for its business interests. The family are shareholders in Tiger Airways in Asia and Vivaaerobus in Mexico, both of which use low-cost models similar to Ryanair.

Mr Ryan had a keen interest in the equine industry as both a breeder and owner and was a patron of Irish drama, through which he provided significant funds for Crumlin children's hospital.

Mr Ryan's family said his funeral service would be "strictly private" and asked that the media respect their privacy.

Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary expressed his "greatest sadness" at learning of Mr Ryan's death.

"Cathal was one of life's originals," Mr O'Leary said, adding that he was "bright, charming, witty and tremendous company".

Mr O'Leary also described Mr Ryan as an "extremely skilled pilot", having become one of the youngest ever captains on the Boeing 747 aircraft.

"Cathal was one of Ireland's aviation pioneers," said Mr O'Leary. "He was a comet who shone brightly in our lives and has passed away at a tragically early age. We will all be much the poorer for the loss of his talent, his ability and his friendship."

Ray MacSharry, a former Ryanair chairman, said spending time with Mr Ryan was "both informative and entertaining" and said many sections of the community "benefited from his generosity".

In a statement, Michelle Rocca, a former partner of Mr Ryan's, said: "Cathal's sudden passing has been devastating for all of us, especially our daughter Claudia and all of Cathal's family. He was a wonderful father to Claudia; he and I had a very good relationship over the past number of years and he will be greatly missed by us all."

Ms Rocca and Mr Ryan had an acrimonious split in the early 1990s and he was found guilty of assaulting the former Miss Ireland in a high-profile legal case.