He was elected to the Norwegian Parliament from Nord-Trøndelag in 2001 and has been re-elected on one occasion. In October 2005 Ryan was selected as the party's parliamentary leader. He had previously served as a deputy representative during the term 1997–2001.
On the local level Ryan was mayor of Namsskogan from 1991 to 1995, deputy mayor from 1995 to 1999 and a council member from 1999 to 2001. From 1991 to 1995 he was a member of Nord-Trøndelag county council.
He chaired the municipal party chapter from 1992 to 1994, and was deputy party leader nationally from 1997 to 2001. From 1999 to 2001 he was a member of the board of the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities.
A teacher by profession, Ryan is particularly interested in regional policy.