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Ryans prove Ireland’s foremost philanthropists with €10m gift

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Declan Ryan and the late Cathal Ryan, sons of Ryanair founder Dr Tony Ryan, have emerged as among Ireland‘s foremost philanthropists following a donation last week of $14m (€10m) to build schools in Sri Lanka — the latest in tens of millions of euro in charitable bequests made in the last few years.

Declan Ryan, 47, a publicity-shy entrepreneur who hates having his photograph taken in public, donated at least €27m up to early 2009 and has continued the “giving while living” philosophy, donating millions in the teeth of the recession.

And his late brother, former airline pilot Cathal, who died after a short battle with cancer in 2007, has, through a trust he set up in his will, made a number of large posthumous donations, culminating in last week’s announcement by the United Nations of a multi-million euro donation to help Sri Lanka recover from both the ruinous civil war that claimed between 80,000 and 100,000 lives and the St Stephen’s Day Tsunami of 2004.

The contribution to education and healthcare for women and children in Sri Lanka is being made by the Cathal Ryan Trust via Unicef — the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.

The bequest to the country has a particular resonance for his daughter, Danielle Ryan, as her mother, Tess de Kretzer, who lives in Belgium, is from Sri Lanka .

Danielle, an actress who has appeared in the hit television period drama The Tudors, said that working in partnership with organisations like Unicef allowed access, personal protection and detailed expertise in each area.

“It is going to allow us to do more than we expected in a shorter amount of time,” she added.

The announcement was made at a high-level event, ‘Partnering with the Philanthropic Community to Promote Education For All’, celebrated at the General Assembly Hall in the United Nations.

Cathal left €250m to family and friends in his will as well as some €35m to charity. He died just three months after the death of his father, Tony, who was also a noted philanthropist and a benefactor to the arts.

Cathal’s brother Declan also heads up a philanthropic organisation, which he set up with Deirdre Mortell and which has given millions to charities and worthy causes in Ireland and overseas.

The One Foundation, named after the U2 song One, has supported more than 35 non-profit organisations in Ireland and Vietnam.

In a rare interview, Declan spoke about the impact of the recession and described philanthropy as a “relay race where the baton has to be passed on”.

“The economic downturn is going to affect us but we can’t let it hinder what we are doing. The need in Ireland is going to grow. There are going to be more children in poverty, more immigrant welfare issues as State funding gets cut,” he said.