Off the Shelf: The Padre – The True Story of the Irish Priest Who Armed the IRA with Gaddaffi’s Money

Review by Terry Kenneally

The Padre - The True Story of the Irish Priest Who Armed the IRA with Gaddaffi’s Money

By Jennifer O’Leary
Merrion Press ISBN978178537461602023 254 pp.

The Padre is a remarkable and chilling story about a priest, Patrick Ryan, who, for two decades, raised financed and acquired bomb-making components for the IRA during the height of The Troubles. Born in County Tipperary and raised by a mother whose violent republicanism encouraged her son to become a priest, Ryan went from a man who started out giving money from collection boxes in County Tipperary meant for the missions to the IRA and whose own republican convictions, singlemindedness and sheer ruthlessness turned him into their “man” in Libya.

To begin with, he was only a name and a question mark – “Ryan”- written in the corner of a notebook, a “throwaway” remark 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.” This throwaway set author Jennifer O’Leary on Ryan’s trail and led to The Padre.

A member of the Pallatine order of priests. Ryan initially worked in Africa amongst the disadvantaged peoples in Tanganyka, but realized quickly that the traditional missionary role was not for him. He went on to become an active IRA supporter and friend of Muammar Gaddafi.

As a provisional IRA militant, he funneled Gaddafi’s money to the IRA, which was then used in its bomb making activities in Ireland, England and across Europe for almost two decades. Father Patrick Ryan evaded intelligence agencies across Europe. He became the subject of two unsuccessful extradition requests; he was for a time, one of the most wanted men in Europe.

Hiding in plain sight, he crisscrossed Europe in a camper van, finding ways to not only fund IRA violence, with Gaddafi’s money, but make it more effective. Ryan explains in the book with disturbing pride how he adopted Memo Park timers-devices he saw Swiss drivers use to remind them that their time on a parking meter was about to expire to make the IRA bombs more reliable.

The IRA went on to use them in “scores” of attacks, including at Warrenpoint, the Canary Warf and in Brighton, when the IRA failed to assassinate Margaret Thatcher but killed four others. Ryan is a priest with blood on his hands, and, rightly, O’Leary emphasizes the human costs.

Though Ryan’s is a remarkable story, it is also a chilling one: “the only regret I have being that I wasn’t more effective; that the bombs made with components I supplied didn’t kill more.” A TOP SHELF read.

Picture of Terry Kenneally

Terry Kenneally

*Terrence J. Kenneally is an attorney and owner of Terrence J. Kenneally & Assoc. in Rocky River, Ohio. He represents insureds and insurance companies in insurance defense through the state of Ohio. Mr. Kenneally received his Masters from John Carroll University in Irish Studies and teaches Irish Literature and History at Holy Name High School.


Click on icons below to share articles to social.

Recent issues

E-Bulletin Signup

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive news and event emails from: iIrish. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact.
New to Cleveland Ad

Explore other topics