Dermot Joseph Ryan, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin from 1972 until 1984, dies in Rome, Italy, on February 21, 1985.
Ryan is born on June 26, 1924, to Andrew Ryan, a medical doctor, and Therese (née McKenna), in Clondalkin, Dublin. In 1932 he goes to Belvedere College, Dublin. In 1942 he enters Holy Cross College, Drumcondra, and graduates with a first in Hebrew and Aramaic at University College Dublin in 1945. He spends a year at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth before attending the Pontifical Irish College in Rome gaining his BD in 1948 at the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome. He returns to Clonliffe to complete his formation, and where he is ordained a priest on May 28, 1950. He returns to Rome to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University, gaining a Licentiate in Sacred Theology in 1952. In 1954 he is awarded an MA in Semitic Languages from the National University of Ireland (NUI), followed by a licentiate in sacred scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute.
Ryan is Professor of Oriental Languages at University College Dublin before his appointment by Pope Paul VI as Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland on December 29, 1971. Maintaining his connection and interest in oriental studies, he serves as chairman of the trustees of the Chester Beatty Library from 1978 to 1984.
Ryan is ordained a bishop by Pope Paul VI in Rome, assisted by Cardinals Bernardus Johannes Alfrink and William Conway (Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland), on February 13, 1972. At the time of his appointment, he is seen as a liberal and a reformer in the Church.
During his term, Ryan consolidates much of the expansion of the Archdiocese which had taken place during the term of his predecessor. He also oversees the fuller implementation of the reforms of Vatican II. He is particularly interested in liturgical reform.
Seen as a Liberal, following the episcopacy of John Charles McQuaid, in November 1972, Ryan becomes the first Roman Catholic archbishop to attend a Church of Ireland service in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and holds an interdenominational service in St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral. He also supports “Ballymascanlon talks,” an inter-church initiative to try to bring communities together and bring peace to Northern Ireland.
Ryan also takes a traditional stand on social issues, including poverty, family life and opposition to abortion. He strongly promotes the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland in 1983, granting the equal right to life to mother and unborn.
As Archbishop, Ryan gives the people of Dublin a public park on a site earmarked by his predecessors for a proposed cathedral. It is named “Archbishop Ryan Park” in his honour. The land, at Merrion Square, is a gift from the archbishop to the city of Dublin.
Ryan also serves as Pro-Prefect of Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples from April 8, 1984, until his death in Rome on February 21, 1985, following a heart attack at the age of sixty.
Ryan is named in the Murphy Report, released in 2009, on sexual abuse of children in Dublin. His actions in respect of complaints against priest Fr. McNamee are described in the report as “an example of how, throughout the 1970s, the church authorities were more concerned with the scandal that would be created by revealing Fr. McNamee’s abuse rather than any concern for the abused.” He also does not act on complaints against other priests who are also subsequently confirmed to be abusers.
In January 2010, after Ryan has been criticised in the Murphy Report the previous year, Dublin City Council seeks public views on renaming “Archbishop Ryan Park.” Later that same year it is renamed “Merrion Square Park” by the City Council.