Frank Ryan was born in County Limerick, Ireland in 1902. He joined the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the War of Independence.
A founder member of the Republican Congress he was also editor of its newspaper, Republican Congress. Ryan, a committed socialist, was a leading opponent in Ireland of Eoin O'Duffy and the Blue Shirts.
On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War the Irish socialist, Peadar O'Donnell, urged the formation of volunteer regiments to support the Popular Front government. O'Donnell and Ryan established the Connolly Column (named after James Connolly) and in December 1936, Ryan and eighty volunteers left Dublin for Spain. The majority came from the Free State but there were also a group of socialists from Belfast. Those who went included Charlie Donnelly, Eddie O'Flaherty, Paul Burns, Jackie Hunt, Bill Henry, Eamon McGrotty, Bill Beattie, Paddy McLaughlin, Bill Henry, Peter O'Connor, Peter Power, Johnny Power, Liam Tumilson, Jim Straney, Willie O'Hanlon, Ben Murray and Fred McMahon.
Ryan was badly wounded at Jarama in February 1937 and returned to Ireland to recuperate. While in Dublin Ryan unsuccessfully contested a seat in the 1937 General Election.
Ryan returned to Spain and was appointed adjutant to General José Miaja. Ryan was captured during the Aragón offensive on 1st April, 1938 and was held at the Miranda del Ebro detention camp. He was sentenced to death but after representations from Eamon de Valera his sentence was commuted to thirty years. In August 1940 Ryan was transferred to Nazi Germany.
Frank Ryan died in Dresden in 1944.
(1) Fred Copeman, Reason in Revolt (1948)
A conference was called by the Chief Political Commissar - Andre Marty, a Frenchman who had been the leader of the Mutiny of the French Black Sea Fleet after the 1914-18 war. He took a liking to me, I assume because I also, to his mind, had led a Naval mutiny.
The conference had one unfortunate incident. The amount of interpretation was necessarily tiring, and towards the end Frank Ryan started complaining in regard to the political treatment of the Irish section. Andre Marty called him to order. Frank at all times was hard of hearing, and in spite of the shouting and bawling he went solidly on with his speech. Marty lost his temper and literally screamed for him to sit down. This produced no result at all. Frank continued in better spirit than before, with the lusty help of some of the Irish, American, Canadian and British delegations. Then four guards entered the hall and proceeded to arrest him. This caused an uproar, and that night "deputations," armed to the teeth, appeared demanding his release.