Ryan, Thomas Joseph (1915–83), catholic bishop, was born 8 February 1915 at Kilcommon, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, the eldest child of five sons and two daughters of Patrick Ryan and his wife Alice, farmers, both originally from Mayo. He was educated at Kilcommon national school and Mount Melleray seminary, Co. Waterford, and studied for the priesthood at St Patrick's College, Thurles, and the Irish College, Rome. He was ordained a priest in Rome on 10 July 1938. After post-ordination studies at the Lateran University, Rome, he became a doctor of theology and a doctor of canon law. Aged 28, Ryan was the youngest monsignor in the church. He entered the holy see diplomatic service in 1943 and was appointed secretary to the apostolic delegation in Istanbul, when Archbishop Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII), was apostolic delegate to Turkey and Greece. From 1944 to 1946, he served on the papal delegation in Cairo.
He returned to Rome in 1947 as an attaché at the Vatican secretariat of state, and Pope Pius XII made him a domestic prelate in 1957. As secretary to John XXIII, Ryan translated the pope's speeches into English at general audiences and also gave him English-language lessons. He accompanied to Ireland Cardinal Peter Agagianian, papal legate to the patrician year celebrations of 1961, and in February 1963 he represented the Vatican secretariat of state at the funeral of John D'Alton, archbishop of Armagh. Just thirteen days after the pope's death (16 June 1963), Ryan was consecrated bishop of Clonfert by Cardinal Amleto Cicognani, Pope John's secretary of state, in Frascati Cathedral, near Rome. Clonfert knew little about him: he was a native of Tipperary, from a different diocese and a citizen of a wider world. Despite his high level of education he never lost touch with ordinary people nor forgot his roots. He had great respect for rural people and rural life, and was a life-long supporter of Kilcommon's Sean Treacy GAA club.
His pastoral contribution was overshadowed in February 1966 by his condemnation of RTÉ's Late Late Show after a guest declared that she had not worn a nightdress on her wedding night; he made his objection the subject of his sermon the following day in ‘fairness to Christian morality’. His protest received widespread and derisive publicity in the press, which affected him badly. Deeply regretting his outburst, he sent a priest to the woman concerned to express his regrets; the RTÉ board also issued an apology for the incident. In 1972 Ryan was a severe critic of the report of the Irish Theological Association working party which called for a more secular constitution. As his health deteriorated Dr Joseph Cassidy (qv) was appointed coadjutor bishop (1979); three years later he resigned, aged 67. He died 21 August 1983 at Coorheen, Loughrea, after a long illness.