Dubliners recall Ryan as part of their daily lives


IF PRINCESS DIANA was “the people’s princess” then Gerry Ryan was “the people’s prince”, according to one person who signed the book of condolence for the RTÉ broadcaster at the Mansion House yesterday.

More than 60 people queued before Dublin Lord Mayor Emer Costello opened the book at noon. The crowds continued to stream in throughout the afternoon.

The mood was sombre and hushed, apart from an occasional yelp from Bridie Clemenger’s dogs Trixie and Holly. She was one of the first in the queue to pay tribute to the 53-year-old father of five, who died suddenly on Friday.

She thought someone close to her had died when her distraught daughter Maria rang with the news on Friday. “She cried and I couldn’t hear her for ages,” she recalled. “I said, ‘Jesus, Maria, take a cup of tea’. Every time she rang me she was crying. She really loved him. It broke her heart.”

Some people left the Mansion House in tears and waved away reporters looking for an anecdote about the broadcaster.

Carol Curley drove up from Roundwood, Co Wicklow, to sign the book and looked upset as she left.

“I got my first job in 1988 and started listening to Gerry,” she said. “He was like a brother.”

The book was full of signatures from people with addresses all over the State and some in Northern Ireland.

William Willoughby came from Gorey, Co Wexford, to pay his tribute. He loved to listen to Ryan’s daily review of the newspapers and admired how he spoke his mind “without fear or favour to anyone. It’s going to be hard to replace Gerry and it’s a sad day for Ireland,” he said.

He would be sadly missed by the truck drivers of Ireland, said Matt O’Shea, who runs a haulage business in Waterford.

A day never passed without some driver returning to base with a story about Gerry Ryan, he said. His wife Fionnuala was “a huge fan” and their children were reared with Ryan on the radio. “She hasn’t stopped crying since we heard it,” Mr O’Shea said, as his wife’s lip wobbled.

Comedian Brendan O’Carroll said he was “shattered” by the broadcaster’s sudden death. He travelled from Britain to sign the book and was returning last night.

The shock he felt at Ryan’s death was comparable to the shock he felt as a child when he heard Nelson’s Pillar had been blown up.

Ryan had been “an amazing help” to him at the start of his career.

“At the time when what I was doing was deemed as absolutely outrageous, he was always supportive, always said, ‘never stop doing what you’re doing. Don’t change what you’re doing’.”

Fianna Fáil’s Seán Haughey recalled how he and Ryan had attended the same school, St Paul’s College in Raheny. “He got up to all sorts of antics as young people do and all that just brings memories flooding back.”

He recalled a “very irreverent . . . almost revolutionary” school magazine edited by Ryan and typed up in the Haughey home.

When outraged parents caught sight of the magazine, full of references to sex, drugs and rock and roll, there was uproar and the magazine was immediately recalled. “That was typical Gerry Ryan.”

Mr Haughey’s wife Orla said she would greatly miss the broadcaster. “I’m really upset about it. He used to make me laugh . . . you’d be crying or laughing at him and he’ll be sorely missed.”

Dublin Lord Mayor Emer Costello was glad to give people the chance to pay tribute. “People just wanted the opportunity to say farewell to him and his passing was so sudden,” she said.

“It’s difficult for people to come to terms with the fact that the airwaves will just not be the same in the mornings any more. Everything has changed now.”

The crowds were still queuing up at 4pm yesterday when the Mansion House doors were due to close and more than 2,500 people had signed the book.

It will open to the public from 10am-4pm today and tomorrow.

In the RTÉ Radio Centre in Donnybrook, Dublin, about 4,000 people signed a book of condolence over the weekend.

Gerry Ryan tribute show to air on 2FM

A tribute programme in response to public demand is to be broadcast on RTÉ this morning in memory of late broadcaster Gerry Ryan.

The programme will be hosted by Evelyn O’Rourke and will be aired on 2fm from 9am to 12pm, the slot held by Ryan (53) until his sudden death last week.

O’Rourke also hosted a tribute special on Saturday.

“We have been sitting here reviewing texts and e-mails and we felt that people are far from finished talking about him,” said RTÉ Radio spokesman Joseph Hoban.

He said the station would be guided by Ryan’s family as to whether or not his funeral would be broadcast live.

An emotional RTÉ presenter Pat Kenny said on his radio show yesterday morning that there was “an ache at the heart of everything we do” because of Ryan’s death.

“Any time I felt the going was a bit tough, he could always raise my spirits and my game.

“He was no saint, nor would he want that said, but I’m happy for my part to canonise him in the hierarchy of broadcasting greats,” he said.

A postmortem will be carried out this morning at Dublin City Morgue in Marino.

His body is expected to be released to his family this afternoon.