'You are my hero' - father's tribute to hero son after bid to save couple
Barry Ryan, who drowned in a doomed bid to save his son's girlfriend and his son, was yesterday hailed as a hero by his tycoon father.
The tribute by Arthur Ryan - the founder of clothing retailer Penneys - was echoed at the funeral Mass for Mr Ryan (51) by the deceased man's partner, Ann Davis.
She said the father-of-three would have done anything for their beloved children.
He proved that by giving his own life in a bid to save his son Barry Davis Ryan (20) and his son's girlfriend Niamh O'Connor (20), she said.
The freak accident occurred at East Hole outside Baltimore in west Cork last Tuesday.
Ms O'Connor was swept into the sea by a wave during a stroll by the coast.
Her boyfriend, Barry Jnr, immediately dived in to save her.
When he then got into difficulty, his father dived into the sea in a bid to rescue the two young people.
Barry Ryan's daughter, Charlotte (14), raised the alarm. Ms O'Connor and Mr Ryan drowned while Barry Jnr is still missing.
Mr Ryan's funeral took place at a packed Rath Church outside Baltimore as the search for his son's body continued for a sixth day in the harbour just 3km away.
In a message read out by Ann Davis' brother-in-law, Danny, Arthur Ryan (80) spoke of his son's remarkable courage and sacrifice.
"You are my hero," he said.
"We love you, Barry, and miss you and you will always be in our hearts.
"He was a free spirit. Our Barry was very special.
"He loved anything to do with nature. In fact, if it was up to Barry, Foxrock would resemble Killarney National Park with planted trees."
Barry Snr adored Baltimore and spent as much of his time in West Cork as possible, despite his work as an executive with Penneys in Dundrum in Dublin.
"I will always think of you and I will see you up in heaven," his mother Rose said.
Ann Davis hailed Mr Ryan as "a devoted father" who would "do absolutely anything for his children".
The mourners were led by Ms Davis, his children Arthur and Charlotte, his parents Arthur and Rose, and siblings Colin, Arthur, Alison and Jessica.
Also present were members of the O'Connor family. At Niamh O'Connor's funeral mass last Saturday, her father Paul said that his daughter was "a stunner" who had found "the love of her life" in Barry Davis Ryan.
He described the two as "soulmates".