Mary Ann Carroll was trained to loathe the Brits.

Published: 29 August 2023

In 1920, in what became known as the Irish war of independence, as a 12-year-old in County Tipperary she was sent out at night to watch out for the Black and Tans and run home to give the alarm. Later, as Mrs Ryan, she was determined to pass on to her six children her stories and her hatred. Her second son, Patrick, was particularly susceptible.

“The family lore was what my mother did as a youngster,” he told his biographer, Jennifer O’Leary, “and I was captivated by her stories; it was like I was back there with her, watching and listening out for the enemy.”

She was as single-minded as would be Patrick, aka Father Paddy, and, later, in republican circles, “the Padre” — and much later again given nick-names by British tabloids that included “Terror Priest” and “Devil’s Disciple”. “All she wanted,” he recalled, “was for us to listen, and we did. All you had to do was mention the subject and she was off, it was in her bones.”

From an early age Patrick displayed other characteristics that would be extremely useful in facilitating mass murder: as an eight-year-old poacher of fish, pheasants and rabbits, he showed himself more ruthless than his siblings, who called him Paddy the Skinner.

Later, in East Africa, he would show an aptitude and enjoyment for big game hunting. But he feels remorse for killing three elephants: “It was elephant country before any man or woman”.

For Ryan, colonialism was always the bugbear: when it comes to the victims of his work for the IRA, he expresses no remorse. “The only regret I have was that I wasn’t more effective; that the bombs made with the components I supplied, didn’t kill more. That is my one regret.”

As a missionary he showed little interest in the priestly party of his job, stopped following orders as early as 1973 and was finally chucked out by the Pallotine Fathers in 1990. I believe that Father Ryan’s publicly proclaimed admissions suggest that he a a psychopath. Like many psychopaths he wanted total control, which is one of the reasons why he took against colleagues like Joe Cahill (“reckless”), Brian Keenan (“he should not have been let loose on society”) and Martin McGuinness (“not to be trusted”). He seemed much happier with Gaddafi, a post-colonial Arab nationalist, who would give him vast sums to cause mayhem in Europe. Ryan proved to be highly competent engineer, who in Africa enjoyed drilling for water, building medical clinics and schools and flying a two-seater aeroplane on mercy missions.

He would later admit that he vastly strengthened the IRA’s capacity for murder by re-engineering small mechanical timers for use in home-made bombs: they became reliable detonators that worked on long-delay timers and facilitated such atrocities as those in Warrenpoint, Hyde Park, Brighton and Canary Wharf.Ryan admits that he did many more bad things, including doing arms deals with Libya, but he has largely escaped the consequences. Despite Margaret Thatcher’s best efforts (“Ryan is a really bad egg”, she told Taoiseach Charles Haughey in 1988), Belgium and Ireland ran scared of extraditing him.

As befits a proud terrorist, he’s not much of a people person: he shows his arrogance and contempt in the wisdom he shares these days. “The trick is to be patient because, you see, every person wants something badly, and if you can wait and slowly find out what that something is and then provide it, you’re a winner, in any walk of life.”

Jennifer O’Leary, a distinguished, brave and relentless prize-winning investigative journalist for BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight, demonstrates the truth of this. Several years ago she was advised by a source: “If you want a story about the IRA that’s never been told by the main player himself, there’s a Ryan you need to speak to, but I doubt he’ll talk.” It took her two years to persuade this appalling nonogenarian to cooperate in telling his terrible story of proudly ruining people’s lives.

It’s most illuminating, though. We need to be reminded how awful the Provos were and how dangerous are all those who teach children to hate.

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