Trinity College alumnus pens biography of Irish Provo priest

by Rachel Cunningham
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Rachel Cunningham

A Spotlight journalist and former Trinity College student has lifted the lid on Fr Patrick Ryan, who evaded intelligence agencies across Europe for almost two decades.

The new biography from award-winning BBC journalist Jennifer O’Leary tells the true story of the Irish paramilitary priest who at one time was one of the most wanted men in Britain.

In The Padre, Jennifer O’Leary reveals previously unknown details about the former Irish priest and active IRA supporter.

Ms O’Leary tracked down the former Catholic priest for a series she was working on and achieved what no other journalist had, an on camera interview about aspects of his work for the IRA.

Since then, the author has been meeting privately with Patrick Ryan. Throughout the course of those meetings, he shared further exclusive details in the knowledge that she was writing a book about his life.

Based on such information, ‘The Padre’ highlights the true extent of the priest’s involvement with the IRA.

IRA bomb-makers carefully constructed increasingly sophisticated devices without ever knowing that a one-time priest, had sourced their key component, the Memo Park timer.

This small gadget was adopted by the IRA as a reliable and accurate bomb detonation timer, with devastating results.

It was Mr Ryan who conceived  the redesign and who purchased the timers in bulk. to ensure that IRA bomb-makers were never short of the devices.

Mr Ryan spoke openly about a range of topics in his past, from being the link between the IRA and the Gaddafi regime, to his connection to the failed assassination attempt on Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet in Brighton in 1984.

“If I had ever met Mrs Thatcher, my parting shot would have been, I wish you well mam, but I’m sorry we missed you at Brighton,” he told the author.

Ms O’Leary studied science and obtained a Master’s Degree in Health Informatics at Trinity College Dublin before moving into journalism.

As a freelance journalist, she wrote feature articles for a number of publications including the Sunday Business Post and the Irish Examiner.

She began working for the BBC as a broadcast journalist in 2011 and later moved to Belfast to work as an investigative reporter for the BBC NI current affairs programme, Spotlight.

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