Mother of Irishman killed in plane crash said he wanted to save the world

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The mother of an Irishman killed in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash has paid tribute to him saying he was committed to making a difference to people’s lives.

UN aid worker and engineer Michael (Mick) Ryan was killed after the plane crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa on Sunday morning.

Mr Ryan’s mother Christine said that her son “wanted to save the world”.

He was employed by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), which is a leading humanitarian organisation delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with impoverished communities to improve nutrition.

The married father-of-two, who was originally from Lahinch in Co Clare, had relocated to Rome to work at WFP headquarters.

His wife Naoise and children were due to move out to Rome in the coming months.

Speaking to RTE Morning Ireland, Christine said: “He’s an amazing person, we can’t believe it and we can’t come to terms with this.

“His wife and children are just devastated.

“He was a very enthusiastic person, he had a great vision and he believed in engineering and in putting people first.”

The plane was en route from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to Nairobi and crashed on the eve of a UN Environment Assembly in the Kenyan capital.

Several WFP staff were on the flight, ahead of this week’s conference.

Mr Ryan was a global deputy chief engineer with the WFP’s engineering division.

Mrs Ryan said she knew he was flying to Nairobi but didn’t know he was on the flight that crashed until his wife contacted her.

“Naoise was saying that she was always concerned when he got on different flights but when he got on this particular flight she wasn’t particularly concerned as he had been in worse situations and survived and got through it,” Christine added.

“He was involved in a lot of projects worldwide, flood relief, landslides, Ebola. He had been in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Sudan.

“He felt he made a difference. He had a marvellous vision and he just got there and did it and had great enthusiasm.

“He always wanted to help others and he loved people and would light up a room. He had a way with people.

“He never wanted a nine to five job, he put everything into his work.

“He had some amazing stories. There was a lot of danger for him but he loved his work. We all appreciated what he was doing and we couldn’t take that away from him.”

Mrs Ryan said her son was turning 40 at the end of the month and the family were to fly to Rome next week for the celebrations.

Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins also paid tribute to Mr Ryan.

“I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Michael Ryan, whose work in humanitarian assistance for the World Food Programme brought him onto the flight,” he said.

“This tragedy affects so many, with passengers from more than 30 countries and from several international organisations were on board the flight.

“On my own behalf and behalf of the Irish people, I send my deepest sympathies to President Sahle-Work Zewde, to the families of the victims and to the people of Ethiopia, and the Ethiopian community who live here in Ireland.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was filled with sadness over the death.

Speaking in Dublin on Monday, he said: “I had the opportunity to visit Rome a couple of years ago to do some work with the WFP and I saw in my work as Taoiseach the enormous importance of the WFP, not just ensuring that people don’t go hungry in times of crisis but also that we build up agriculture and have secure food supplies in developing countries.

“It’s really important and honourable work and I am really sad for him and really sad for his family and his friends that his life has ended this way.”

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