Dr Tony Ryan, a co-founder of Europe's most famous low-cost airline Ryanair, has died at the age of 71.

The multi-millionaire had been ill for some time.

Dr Ryan was born in Thurles, Co Tipperary in February 1936 and was the son of a train driver.

He got a job with Aer Lingus in Shannon after attending a Christian Brothers school. Quickly rising through the ranks, he led a division which leased its unused aircraft other to other carriers.

He convinced Aer Lingus to expand and, along with an investment from the London based firm Guinness Peat Group, set up Guinness Peat Aviation (GPA) in Shannon.

Tony Ryan was considered a tough task master with big ambitions and became one of Ireland's most wealthy entrepreneurs.

Among his investments was a stake in The Sunday Tribune.

RyanairIn 1985 he set up Ryanair with colleague Christy Ryan and began flying from Waterford to Gatwick. By 1988 the airline was losing cash and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

Then, two things happened. Ryanair clinched a deal to fly from Dublin to London Stansted - and Michael O'Leary became the airline's chief executive.

By the early 1990s, GPA was worth €4bn.

Tony Ryan assembled big name directors including UK politician Nigel Lawson, Garrett Fitzgerald, Peter Southerland and British businessman John Harvey Jones.

The plan was a showstopper stock market flotation to raise €10bn, but when investors got nervy at the last moment, the float was abandoned and GPA, which owed the banks huge sums, went into free fall.

Things got worse when General Electric bought in leaving Tony Ryan with little control.

However, there was one shining success. Ryanair was expanding fast making Tony Ryan huge sums and the formula of cheeky, cheap and efficient left Tony Ryan an enduring legacy.