Hundreds attend Ryan funeral


Broadcaster Gerry Ryan made his final journey from his family home today as friends and colleagues gathered at his funeral.

Hundreds of fans stood outside as his five children and wife Morah took him back to the north Dublin church where he was baptised and married.

His two sons Rex and Elliott, his two brothers Michael and Mano (Vincent), film maker David Blake-Knox and Michael O’Connor carried Ryan’s coffin into St John the Baptist Church on the Clontarf Road.

The chief mourners included his children Lottie (23), Rex (20), Bonnie (17), Elliott (14), and Babette (10) and his partner Melanie Verwoerd and her children.

The String Quartet from the National Symphony Orchestra performed as some 300 mourners - including President Mary McAleese, and friends and colleagues from RTÉ, attended. Among the other faces in the congregation were pop mogul Louis Walsh and Boyzone’s Keith Duffy.

The Mass, celebrated by family friend Fr Michael Collins, began at 11.30am. Inside, Cantor Dermod McCarthy told the congregation to join in the singing with the Dublin Gospel Choir, adding: "Gerry would want it. He would want the roof to be raised."

Delivering the Homily, Fr Brian D'Arcy said it was not possible to squeeze into a few moments the life of someone so gifted and talented as his friend Gerry Ryan, or any human being.

He said Ryan had invented a "new form of language" for radio. He had "courage without measure" and used his gifts to speak for the "poor, the downtrodden and the voiceless".

"He would never mention God, but God would not be unmentioned," Fr D'Arcy said.

After communion, boy band Westlife moved to one side of the altar where they performed You Raise Me Up with members of the gospel choir. The performance drew tears from some of Ryan's fans gathered outside the church and some held up pictures of him as the music played.

Ryan’s brother Vincent, also known as Mano, and his two eldest children then paid tribute to the broadcaster in a touching eulogy.

“Where can we begin to describe a man that the nation already seems to know so well,” said Lottie. “You all knew Gerry Ryan as the motormouth broadcaster, but obviously what we’re more familiar with is him as our loving dad and as our dad he was pretty much a textbook super dad.”

Lottie told how Ryan would drop anything for his children, how he was her best friend and a free guidance counsellor throughout her life. “To quote one of dad’s favourite films Blade Runner ‘the light that burns twice as brightly burns twice as fast’ and how brightly he has shone,” she continued, fighting back tears.

“I guess a lot of people would probably feel robbed of losing a dad so soon, but I can speak on behalf of myself, my brothers and my sisters when I say that we are honoured to be part of the Gerry Ryan show for as long as we were.”

Rex described how the DJ was the definition of a cool dad, a rock during his teenage years and a walking encyclopaedia who seemingly knew the answer to every question. “We had a true father-son trust that stayed strong always,” said Rex.

“This was a man who was too big for this world. He shone more brightly than anyone I’ve come across in my life. He was a true believer in cherishing and enjoying life and making every second count, which he most certainly did. I will miss my dad greatly, and I’m so proud to be his son.”

Speaking at the end of the service, Ryan's wife Morah, from whom he was separated, conveyed sympathies on behalf of herself and his family to his partner Melanie Verwoerd, and her children.

Ms Ryan said her husband had always been so proud of his children.

"He adored them and he was as adored by them."

She said RTÉ was Ryan's "home". She also thanked his listeners and said the family had been "surrounded by love" in the tributes to him during the week. His listeners were the reason he got up each morning.

U2, Ryan’s favourite group who he supported throughout their career, then sent a special message from New York.

“Calling from New York on the Ryan Line, Ryan Line still open,” said Bono before the band performed their track With Or Without You. “Goodbye Gerry, see you down the road,” the band’s frontman added at the end.

Earlier, friends and colleagues of the RTÉ broadcaster queued from 10am to get into the church. Crash barriers were in place on both sides of the road outside and gardaí directed traffic. Many hundreds of people stood for more than three hours in the cold to wait for the arrival of the hearse, and the presenter's final exit from the church where he was baptised and married.

Many people bore pictures of Ryan and banners displaying messages of sympathy.

Among the first to arrive this morning were sisters Gráinne and Síle Seoige, members of Westlife, broadcasters Larry Gogan, Marian Finucane, Tony Fenton, Ray D'Arcy, Aonghus MacAnally and Hector Ó Eochagáin, and designer John Rocha. Minister for Health Mary Harney and husband Brian Geoghegan, Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan, Conor Haughey and Seán Haughey, promoter John Reynolds, former taoiseach Albert Reynolds, RTÉ director general Cathal Goan, former director general of RTÉ Bob Collins, publisher Niall Stokes, solicitor Gerald Kean, comedian Brendan Grace and actor Joe Taylor were also at the church.

RTÉ colleagues Ryan Tubridy, Joe Duffy and Pat Kenny also attended.

Ryan (53) was found dead by his partner Melanie Verwoerd in his apartment on Leeson Street in Dublin last Friday afternoon. His body lay in repose at his family home in Clontarf yesterday where a private wake was held for friends and family.

Loudspeakers were set up in the grounds of the church, and the funeral was broadcast on 2fm. It was also shown via webcam on both the parish and RTÉ websites. Buses this morning transported RTÉ staff from Montrose and Ballsbridge to Clontarf.

The Ryan family requested that, in lieu of flowers, well-wishers should make a donation to their personal charity of choice.

The burial, which was private, took place at Dardistown Cemetery in Cloghran.

About 10,000 people have signed books of condolence set up in memory of Ryan at the Mansion House and RTÉ headquarters since his death.

Additional reporting PA