In memoriam: Prof Liam Ryan celebrated at Maynooth event

President pays tribute to man who possessed skills ‘of the finest empirical social scientists’

The late Rev Prof Liam Ryan was remembered at a special reception in Maynooth on Friday night where a short memorial publication based on people's recollections of him was also published.

Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Maynooth University, Limerick man, hurler, story teller, priest, writer and local historian, he died earlier this year.

In attendance at the reception were members of his family as well as friends, former colleagues and students, there to celebrate his life and contribution to sociology, to Maynooth University and to Irish society. His lengthy career at Maynooth coincided with the development of the university as a secular institution and the flourishing of the social sciences there.

In the memorial publication President Michael D Higgins described Prof Ryan as a man informed by "a passionate social ethic and a peerless intellect. He possessed all of the skills and knowledge of the finest empirical social scientists, for sociology for Liam was never a mere abstract discipline.

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“He approached the subject from the perspective of a deep concern for what he could see happening in our communities and might be amenable to change. His work on early school leaving and social housing in his native Limerick remains as important and as relevant now as it did 50 years ago.”

‘Indelible mark’

Prof Mary P Corcoran, head of Department of Sociology, who along with colleagues Dr Brian Conway and Dr Colin Coulter, organised the event, said it was "clear that Liam touched many lives in ways that left an indelible mark. We were delighted with the response to the event and the willingness of people to share their memories."

Another former student and colleague of Prof Ryan's, Dr Tony Fahey, himself now Professor of Social Policy at UCD, wrote "it was Liam's ability to see a topic in his idiosyncratic and compelling way and talk plainly about it in tones that could range from the sombre to the sardonic to the outrageously funny that captivated me as a student and that stayed with me ever since as a model of what one could do if one only one had the wit and brainpower".

Copies of the memorial booklet are available at sociology.department@nuim.ie.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times