RTÉ opens book of condolence


Hundreds of people, including the Minister for Arts Mary Hanafin have signed the book of condolences for Gerry Ryan, the RTE broadcaster who died yesterday.

A black and white photograph of Ryan was placed on a table at the radio centre in RTÉ yesterday where the books of condolence were placed.

Minister Hanafin was one of the first to arrive. "The nation has been shocked by such a sudden loss. He was not just a great broadcaster, he was a great entertainer," she said.

"The fact that he was in homes all over the country meant people thought they had a personal relationship with him.

"People are grieving for somebody they had not even met. People feel like he has been in their home. The country is not only in shock, but grieving for the loss of a great man."

Ryan (53) was found dead at his apartment in Dublin yesterday morning.

Constance Byrne-Edodo fought back tears and clutched a copy of his autobiography. "I never knew him, but I felt that I knew him and that he was only a phone call away if I wanted him. Nobody will replace him, there is a void."

Peter Behan, who had phoned in once to complain about Ryan's take on the Mahon Tribunal, said the country had "lost a son, not a father. He was too young to be the nation's father".

Anastasia Leonard, who came with her two daughters to sign the book of condolence, described Ryan as the "heart and soul of Ireland. He will never be replaced."

Similar sentiments were expressed in the book of condolence. "Like most of the country, my trip to work will never be the same", "the man, the legend and everyone's best friend" and a "ray of colour in a grey world" were just some of the expressions of interest.

The book of condolences will be open at the Radio Centre until 6pm today and will also be open from 12pm to 6pm tomorrow.

Garda sources said there were no signs of a break-in or any disturbance at Ryan's apartment. The exact cause of death will not be established until after a postmortem is carried out.

His death has shocked his fans and RTÉ colleagues, many of whom struggled to hold back their tears on air yesterday.

On a tribute show on 2fm this morning, U2’s Bono and Edge described him as the “nation’s weather vane” and a “great analyst of the country’s affairs”.

The band's manager Paul McGuinness praised the late broadcaster on RTÉ's Marian Finucane this morning.

"He was an extraordinary larger than life, but he had extraordinary breadth and depth. He knew so much," he said. "The whole country is in mourning now. The country was in love with him."

Sean Haughey, who was a childhood friend of the broadcaster, described him as a great ambassador for North Dublin and praised Ryan's independence.

"He was a very independent thinker, independent in his views about politics or whatever the subject was. He didn't just go with the consensus," he said.

"He liked to live close to the edge, he did push things to the limit. He had that sense of danger; he liked that sense of danger and that as certainly evident in his teenage years...He took risks on air and people accepted it."

Writer John Banville described Ryan as "a marvellous storyteller, a marvellous raconteur".

"He struck me as being very much like an 18th century wit. He was very funny, but he was also very witty and there's a difference. His humour, which really appealed to me was very much language-based, he was alive to the comic possibilities of language, and the ambiguity of language," he said.

Gay Byrne, Joe Duffy, Dave Fanning, Pat Kenny and Brenda Donohue took part in a special Late Late Show last night.

"Often he was overlooked in ways," Kenny said.

"There are talents of varying degrees which have come from RTE, I think it's been a great training ground for people. But I think with Mr Wogan and Mr Byrne, you are the holy trinity as far as I'm concerned."

The panel shared memories of Ryan throughout his career.

"What I remember most about him is his jollity, his sense of fun, his skit, his bloody minded awkwardness for the sake of being awkward to get at somebody and to rise them," Byrne said.

RTÉ director general Cathal Goan said it was a “moment of inexpressible grief” for the broadcaster. Ryan had been a fixture at RTÉ for nearly all his career and his 2FM Gerry Ryan Show, with more than 300,000 listeners every morning, made him the “rock” of the station, according to colleague Larry Gogan.

An emotional Joe Duffy described Ryan as the “boldest broadcaster in every sense of that word”. Gay Byrne described him as an “unconstrained spirit”.

Ryan was separated from his wife Morah, with whom he had five children. A brief statement from the family said they were in “complete shock”.