Richie Ryan (born 27 February 1929) is an Irish former Fine Gael politician and solicitor.
Richie Ryan was born in Dublin in 1929. He was educated at Synge Street CBS, University College Dublin (UCD), where he studied economics and jurisprudence, and the Incorporated Law School of Ireland subsequently qualifying as a solicitor. A formidable orator, at UCD he was auditor of the Literary and Historical Debating Society (the L&H) and subsequently the Solicitors Apprentice Debating Society (1950) and won both socieites' gold medal for debating. He continues to serve as one of the Honorary Vice-Presidents of the L&H.
After qualifying Ryan worked for a number of solicitors firms before establishing a private practice in Dame Street in Dublin, in which he remained an active partner until appointed to ministerial office in 1973. He first held political office when he was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fine Gael Teachta Dála (TD) for Dublin South–West in a 1959 by-election, and retained his seat until he retired at the February 1982 general election to concentrate on his European Parliament seat.
In opposition, Ryan served as Fine Gael spokesperson on Health and Social Welfare (1966–1970) and on Foreign Affairs and Northern Ireland (1970–1973). During this period he was involved in a number of important pro bono legal cases, including the 1963 challenge in the High Court, and then, on appeal, in the Supreme Court of Ireland in 1964, by Gladys Ryan (no relation) on the constitutionality of the fluoridation of the water supply. While the court ruled against Gladys Ryan, the case remains a landmark as it established the right to privacy under the Irish Constitution (or pehaps more correctly, the right to bodily integrity under Article 40.3.1. The case also raised a legal controversy due to the introduction by Justice Kenny of the concept of unenumerated rights. Other notable cases involving Richie Ryan include a challenge to the rules governing the drafting of constituency boundaries and an unsuccessful attempt to randomise the order of candidates on ballot papers (due to preponderance of TDs with surnames from the start of the alphabet due to party-list voting by electors).
In 1973, Fine Gael came to power in a coalition with the Labour Party, and Ryan became Minister for Finance, an area where he had little experience. He presided over a tough four years in the National Coalition under Liam Cosgrave, during the 1970s oil crisis, during which time Ireland's foreign debt increased and the economy steadily worsened. He was variously lampooned as "Richie Ruin" on the Irish satire show Hall's Pictorial Weekly, and as "Red Richie" for his governments introduction of a wealth tax. Following the 1977 general election, Fine Gael were out of power, and Ryan once again became spokesperson on Foreign Affairs.
Ryan also served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in 1973 and from 1977 to 1979, being appointed to Ireland's first delegation and third delegation. At the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979, he was elected for the Dublin constituency, and was re-elected in 1984 heading the poll on both occasions.
On being appointed to the European Court of Auditors in 1986, he resigned his seat and was succeeded by Chris O'Malley. He retired from his position at the Court of Auditors in 1994. After retirement he continued in a number of roles, including as a Commissioner of Irish Lights (until 2004) and a spell as Chairman of the Irish Red Cross in 1998.