Respected advocate for the Irish and international aquaculture
Richie Flynn obituary: Leitrim man known for his political intuition, his passion for his family and his music
Richie Flynn: IFA president Joe Healy expressed the shock and grief of many when he spoke of a much-loved colleague who was “utterly dedicated” to his work.
Born: May 6th, 1969.
Died: August 24th, 2018
Richie Flynn, who died suddenly at the age of 49, was a highly respected advocate for the Irish and international aquaculture sector who was known for his political intuition, sharp wit and absolute passion for his family and his music.
“The soul of every discussion, late night and early morning debate, argument or song,” as one of his close friends put it, he was to fish farming what the late Joey Murrin was to the fishing industry – never shirking straight talk when a politician was in range.
Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Joe Healy expressed the shock and grief of many when he spoke of a much-loved colleague who was “utterly dedicated” to his work with the organisation for the past 27 years.
He was born in Co Leitrim, made lifelong friends in Marian College in Mohill and studied communications in the National Institute of Higher Education, which became Dublin City University (DCU). His priorities were music, music and music – becoming a disc jockey with John Peel as his role model, amassing a much-envied vinyl collection, and encouraging others such as Donal Scannell and Donal Dineen to secure their first gigs in Dublin.
Work in journalism was scarce enough when he graduated in the late 1980s, and he mixed freelancing with other enterprises, such as cleaning CIÉ buses. He produced a music fanzine, and also a soccer magazine, the Long Ball, with college colleagues Tom Doyle and Jimmy Coleman, and would often be found selling copies of it outside Dublin’s Dalymount Park.
After he took on a project to archive the media coverage of Joe Rea’s IFA presidency, he was recruited by Niall Ó Muilleoir to join him in the IFA press office. IFA general secretary Michael Berkery at the time recalls phoning from Brussels in the middle of a major negotiation and hearing Richie’s energetic voice.
“Well Richie, how is it going?” Berkery asked.
“Great, Mick. We are kicking the hell out of them,” came the reply.
“That’s great, Richie, but who are we kicking?”Berkery asked.
“I don’t know, Mick, the enemy, but we are really kicking the hell out of them.”
He saw the early potential of the internet, registered ifa.ie as the organisation’s domain name, and on a Friday evening would be spotted swapping his suit for his DJ’s T-shirt, jeans and Doc Martens. On one occasion, he and Colm O’Callaghan secured an interview for the music magazine Dropout with the top indie band the Trashcan Sinatras. The early morning link with the band in London via the IFA Farm Centre radio studio had to be cut short as RTÉ’s Morning Ireland was scheduled to talk about cattle prices.
He was a proud member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), and helped to raise funds for Irish Press journalists in their campaign to resist the newspaper group closure. He served on the NUJ’s Irish executive council and founded the union’s Irish Journalist magazine.
In the mid 1990s, he switched to the IFA’s aquaculture division, representing the fish-farming sector at home and in Brussels. Science was central to his work – he took a master’s degree in science communication – and he was appointed board member of the Marine Institute.
He chaired the EU advisory committee on aquaculture from 2001 to 2011 and was president of the European Shellfish Federation from 2012 to 2016. He deployed his political skills two years ago to create the EU Aquaculture Advisory Council, which advises the European Commission and European Parliament on the sustainable development of the sector, and became its first chairman.
Leitrim to the core
He settled with his lifelong friend and partner Trish in his native Leitrim after she returned from London in 2000. Like his father, Liam, who predeceased him by just six weeks, Richie was Leitrim to the core. He was a regular steward at the Mohill Agricultural Show, and was secretary of the local angling club. He maintained his passion for music, and his rendition of The Auld Triangle rivalled that of the great Luke Kelly.
Few colleagues will forget the excitement in his voice when talking about his family; he also found peace in his garden among apple trees, hazels, gooseberries, raspberries – while battling brambles with the same ferocity that he used to defend the aquaculture sector against criticism that was frequently misinformed.
Richie Flynn is survived by his wife, Trish, children Liam and Róisín, mother Helen and sister Sinéad.