Thomas Anthony Ryan, Chairman and Chief Executive of Guinness Peat Aviation is one of only two people to be awarded Honorary Membership of the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick.  Thus it is particularly appropriate that he should be honoured today by the award of an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Limerick.

Tony Ryan is one of Ireland's most innovative and successful businessmen.  He combines this with an enormous range of local, national and international contributions in the social, cultural and industrial spheres.  He is generous with his time and energy.

Born in County Tipperary, Ireland, he held senior management positions with Aer Lingus in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States.  In 1975 Dr Ryan in conjunction with Aer Lingus and Guiness Peat Group founded GPA Group plc.

The GPA Group is the world's largest operating lessor of modern (post 1985) commercial aircraft, and is a major participant in the global aviation industry.  The Group leases aircraft to a wide range of airlines throughout the world.  As a closely integrated activity, it sells aircraft with operating leases in place to investors who seek a return on their investment from a combination of future lease rentals, the aircraft's residual value and in certain circumstances tax benefits.

GPA Group and its affiliates have their headquarters in Shannon, Ireland.  On December 31, 1991 the company had a portfolio of 393 modern jet and turboprop aircraft.  These aircraft were leased to over 101 airlines in 47 countries.  GPA's cumulative orders and options from January 1, 1992 through the year 2000 amount to 583 aircraft.

Other aviation-related activities include operational support, project management, investment banking and financial engineering products.  Shannon Aerospace, a joint venture with Lufthansa and Swissair, has established a major international aircraft overhaul and maintenance facility at Shannon, which is expected to have 1,000 employees by 1996.

GPA Group was established in 1975.  Its shareholders include its employees, Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland, The Long Term Credit Bank of Japan, Mitsubishi Trust Bank, Prudential Insurance, Irish Life Assurance and T A Ryan.  It manages separate Joint Ventures in respect of McDonnell Douglas, Airbus, ATR, Fokker and Rolls Royce equipment.

For the year ended 31 March 1991, GPA's revenues exceeded billion and pre-tax profit announced to million.  The company's net worth was ,047m.

In additional to being Chairman of GPA, Dr Ryan is director of Trafalgar House plc and a director of the University of Limerick Foundation.  He also serves as an Irish Government appointee on the Board of Governors of the National Gallery of Ireland in his personal capacity as an art collector.

Dr Ryan farms extensively in Dolla, Co Tipperary.  His concerns are with innovation and experimentation in farming.  A particular interest of his is the introduction of new strains of cattle into Ireland, including his own prize winning Blonde d'Aquitaine herd.  At the local level also he has established the Tipperary Trading Company, which aims to encourage industrial and cultural development, and tourism in Tipperary.  This is well demonstrated in the Tipperary Trading Company showcase for the best of Tipperary goods at Birdhill.

His contribution to local environmental and charitable projects extends to the wider region of Tipperary, Limerick and Clare.  Good examples of his influence can be seen in the restoration of the Bolton Library in Cashel, the restoration of Damer House in Roscrea and his Chairmanship of the Committee formed to establish the Hunt Museum in Limerick City.

His cultural contributions include the GPA International Piano Competition, the Emerging Artists Competition and the GPA Book Award.

His many international honours include his membership of the very influential European Round Table.  As Honorary Consul of Mexico, he is forming strong links between Ireland and Mexico.

Thus today we honour Thomas Anthony Ryan, a personification of enterprise and innovation at the highest level.  An entrepreneur par excellence.