The loss of a young, active life is always tragic, especially if that person is a parent of young children. If that life is lost in the service of others it will not assuage loved ones’ grief but it may, in time, be of some small consolation and a source of pride. Engineer Mick Ryan, who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday, was such a person. The Clareman was a United Nations aid worker and was the only Irish person aboard when the four-month-old Boeing 737, crashed shortly after it left Addis Ababa. There were no survivors among the 149 passengers and eight crew.
Ryan used his professional skills to fulfill the sense of optimism and obligation he felt towards the world’s most vulnerable. He worked in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan and risked contracting ebola in Africa so others’ lives might be lifted from struggle. Based in Rome, where he was to mark his 40th birthday with his family this month, he lived on Popes’ Quay in Cork with his wife, Naoise, and their two young children. He brought the passion that drove his UN work to local environmental campaigns, particularly the one opposed to controversial plans to heighten the River Lee’s quay walls. Many of us imagine we have an informed conscience but few enough of us make it an active force in our lives; we trundle along with the flow. Mick did not trundle along, he dedicated his life to noble ideals no matter what the challenge. His family and Ireland can be proud of him.