Colleagues mourn fun-loving and larger-than-life broadcaster
TRIBUTES:RTÉ WILL open the reception area in the radio centre, Donnybrook, today from 12 noon to 6pm for the public to sign a book of condolence for Gerry Ryan. Within hours of his sudden death, almost 20,000 fans had logged on to a Facebook page in his memory, while colleagues at RTÉ struggled to comprehend the death of the broadcaster.
RTÉ director general Cathal Goan described Ryan as a “one-off” and his death marked a moment of “inexpressible grief”.
“Those who had the privilege of working with him will have a sense of bewilderment at the suddenness of his leaving us,” he said.
His long-time friend and colleague Dave Fanning said there was “nobody funnier”.
“He’d be giving out about some of the eulogies that have already been written about him. He was fun all the time, that is what it is all about. Going away on holidays with him was just one big laugh.”
Mr Fanning said his loss to RTÉ 2FM, where he was the linchpin of the schedule and easily the station’s biggest name, would make him impossible to replace.
“He is and was 2FM. He went in 1988 to morning radio. Radio was quite strict and controlled but Gerry just swept it all aside and said ‘f*** this’ and went for it,” he said.
Everybody in the country was “deeply shocked” at Ryan’s death but the shock was felt most of all by his colleagues, an emotional Joe Duffy told RTÉ One’s 6pm news programme
“He was larger than life, he was the boldest broadcaster in every sense of that wonderful word,” he said. “He was brilliant company. A lot of people are in deep shock. I think people will discover the breadth of his friendships and his intelligence.”
Veteran broadcaster Gay Byrne described Ryan as an “unconstrained spirit” who lived life to the full. News of his former colleague’s sudden death was a “terribly frightening thing” for everybody.
He described Ryan as a “terrific friend and a terrific guy to be with”. He was also someone who was highly intelligent and well-read. “He was tremendously arrogant in his views and opinions and he was very funny about it at the same time. You couldn’t possibly take offence,” Byrne added.
“He lived live to the full, he was full of fun and hilarity and pure bloody devilment, and that is how I will remember him.”
He also praised him as a “terrific daddy” to his five children. Byrne, Duffy, Fanning and Pat Kenny and Brenda Donohue took part in a special tribute Late Late Showlast night. His manager and friend Noel Kelly said his death happened at a time when his career was on a high with the success of Operation Transformation, Ryan Confidentialand his impending Saturdaynight show.
“To be able to go on air three hours a day, five days a week and keep up the level of listenership is something no other broadcaster in Ireland or Britain could do. It was a phenomenal achievement.”
Head of 2FM John McMahon, who was his former producer for 11 years, said Ryan could be difficult but that was the nature of the talent. He said RTÉ had held back on announcing his death at the request of his family even while it was being announced by other broadcasters and on Twitter.
Mr McMahon described Ryan’s off-air persona as “exactly like you heard every day, only worse”.
He was “better craic, bigger, bolder, naughtier and more intelligent than you could ever hear on radio”.
Another friend, Willie O’Reilly, now chief executive of Today FM, said 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. History will look kindly on him. Everybody is surreally shocked at his death.”
British broadcaster Chris Evans, who credited Ryan with saving his radio career, described him as “absolutely one of the best broadcasters in the world. Fabulous, fabulous communicator. Very sad to hear he has left us. He really was the cream of our radio crop.”