Gerry Ryan: Remembering ‘the Charlie Haughey of DJing’

To some he was a mouthy, blowhard egomaniac – but 500,000 listeners disagreed

With his fondness for the high life, it’s little wonder that Gerry Ryan formed a ‘connection’ with Charles Haughey. Photograph: Maxpix

With his fondness for the high life, it’s little wonder that Gerry Ryan formed a ‘connection’ with Charles Haughey. Photograph: Maxpix

 

You know the theory, if you think something happened, say, five years ago, double the figure and you’ll be closer to right. Gerry Ryan – A Legacy (RTÉ One, Sunday, 9.30 pm) proved the theory once again, the documentary marking the 10th anniversary of his death, when it seems no more than half a decade ago that he died at the age of just fifty-three. 

The worry with these class of programmes, of course, is that they’ll turn in to a kind of a posthumous This Is Your Life, with a string of former friends and colleagues lining up to tell you what a flawless human being the subject was. 

To its credit, this offering at least attempts to avoid that fate, the flaws not entirely overlooked, and has the good grace to intimate that the only legacy that really matters in Ryan’s story is the impact of his death on his five children – his broadcasting career, in comparison, mattering not a jot. 

There was a bit of the Marmite about that career, some at a complete loss to understand his popularity which, at its peak, saw him draw in half a million listeners to his 2FM morning show. For them, he was a mouthy blowhard with an ego so inflated it bordered on the comical. That footage of him out Bono-ing Bono in a 2FM “Beat on the Street” gig in front of a crowd 20,000 lent weight to the theory.

But for the thousands who queued up to sign books of condolence on his death, he was the soundtrack to their every morning. They loved him. 

The nation paid a heckuva price for that love, though. At one point, he was earning over €600,000 a year with RTÉ, a figure too gobsmacking to compute, even if he was bringing in a whole heap of advertising revenue. RTÉ, no more than himself as we learnt, lost the run of themselves.

“He was born in Clontarf, but I think he thought he had been born in Downton Abbey,” says Joe Duffy of Ryan’s spending habits.

“There is no way he would want to go down to Dromoland Castle by road if there was a helicopter to take him,” said Dave Fanning.

With a somewhat hedonistic fondness for the high life, then, it’s little wonder that he formed a “connection” with Charles Haughey, as Ryan’s brother Mano explained. “Charlie liked the fine things in life, and I think Gerry really found that fascinating ... I think that had a big impact on him.”

Maybe Gerry was the Haughey of DJing, half the nation entranced, the other half tuned out. But, career-wise, his proudest legacy will forever be that chat with rape victim Lavinia Kerwick.

“He gave me the opportunity to talk about the brutality of rape, which was a first for the national airwaves,” she says. “He was my wingman after that. He gave a voice to people who were silenced and stigmatised.”

Now, there’s a legacy to be proud of. 

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.