Irish 'struggle' with separation, says Verwoerd


The partner of the late broadcaster Gerry Ryan, Melanie Verwoerd, has said she thinks there is “a big discomfort” and “a difficulty in dealing with the second partner” in Ireland.

Ms Verwoerd was speaking on BBC Radio 4 yesterday about her 2½-year relationship with the RTÉ presenter who had separated from his wife, Morah.

Asked on Woman’s Hour if she had a “tough time” as “his other woman”, the former South African ambassador to Ireland said that while she and Ryan were never public about their relationship, “when I found him dead on our bedroom floor one morning . . . it caused this huge outcry in Ireland because he was so incredibly loved and famous”.

She said that after his funeral, media attention switched from his family to her. “I’ve been watching Leveson and a lot of things rang true for me as well – having to face the media outside my door for months, my doorbell being rung, my children being hounded, etc.”

She told Radio 4’s Jane Garvey this was because she was, “as you mentioned, the other woman”.

“I was his new partner and it is something that Ireland is struggling with,” she said.

Ms Verwoerd said though divorce has been legal here since the 1990s and thousands of people have separated and divorced, “there is a big discomfort and I believe a difficulty in dealing with the second partner and we were the first high-profile couple that this had happened to”, she said.

She said an inquest found “minute traces” of cocaine in his blood and this led to “another media drama” where “frankly, the media destroyed him and his reputation. In my view a lot of it was just pure lies.”

Of her book, When We Dance, she said many people had asked her to write her story. Ms Verwoerd grew up in an Afrikaner household in South Africa, her ex-husband’s grandfather, HF Verwoerd, was the so-called father of apartheid and she became an ANC MP at the age of 27.

She said two weeks before Ryan died he asked her to write a book. “I had said if you are only 45, it’s ridiculous to write your life story, and then he also made me promise to write about him and our relationship should he ever die, and then he died two weeks later so this is part of honouring that promise to him.”