Tributes pour in for Gerry Ryan

Gerry Ryan

Many tributes have been made by members of the public and media personalities following the sudden death of RTE broadcaster Gerry Ryan. Once described as “Ireland’s answer to Howard Stern”, Ryan, 53, was found dead in his apartment in Dublin’s Leeson Street Upper at around 12.30pm yesterday.

The Gerry Ryan Show on 2FM had an audience of around 300,000 listeners weekday mornings. The show was a diet of light entertainment, debates and celebrity interviews. Ryan’s frank and often irreverent style on his long-running radio show created a media persona that people either liked or ignored.

His TV shows included Ryan Confidential and Operation Transformation. His longtime friend and RTE colleague Dave Fanning said there was “nobody funnier”. Joe Duffy of Liveline described him as “the boldest broadcaster in every sense of that word”. Gay Byrne said Ryan was an “unconstrained spirit”.

Speaking during a special Late Late Show tribute to Ryan, Pat Kenny said he was “the holy trinity” of presenters at RTE, along with Gay Byrne and Terry Wogan. On a tribute show on 2FM, U2’s Bono and The Edge described Ryan as “the nation’s weather vane” and a “great analyst of the country’s affairs”

Tributes were made by President Mary McAleese, who described Ryan as an extraordinarily talented broadcaster whose unique communications skills and larger-than-life persona entertained and enlivened his audiences. Taoiseach Brian Cowen said he was “deeply saddened” by the news.

Willie O’Reilly, chief executive, Today FM, a friend of Ryan’s and a former producer of his radio show, told The Irish Times that he had grown in his early years from being an “awkward TCD graduate to a person with real feeling for other people. His kind never come around this way too often.”

In a cover story interview with Marketing in September 2007, Ryan Tubridy said: “To be straight, I’m a Gerry Ryan fan. From day one, when I came in here as a runner and made him tea and coffee, he’s been a big supporter… he always backed me and he’s always been loyal.”

Shortly after his death, almost 20,000 fans had logged on to a Facebook page in his memory. An example of Ryan’s inimitable candour was apparent in a radio show, when during the course of a chat with a young man about having sex, he said: “Was it then that you sank the salami?”

A book of condolence was opened in the RTE radio centre from noon until 6pm Saturday for the public to sign and around 2,000 people queued to sign the book. Dublin’s Lord Mayor, Emer Costello, opened a book of condolence at the Mansion House on Dawson Street on Sunday.

While it is suspected that Ryan died after suffering a massive heart attack,  a post mortem will be carried out at the Dublin city morgue on Tuesday to confirm the cause of death, after which Ryan’s body is expected to be released for his funeral.

Ryan is survived by his wife, Morah, from whom he was separated, his five children and his partner, Melanie Verwoerd, the former South African ambassador to Ireland and Unicef  Ireland boss.

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