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Gerry Ryan 1956-2010

Gerry Ryan
Gerry Ryan was found dead at his home on Friday

Gerry Ryan, who has died aged 53, was one of Ireland's best known broadcasters.

He was born in 1956 in Dublin and his long and distinguished career on the airwaves was based in the Irish capital.

After beginning life in pirate radio, he joined the Irish national broadcaster, Radio Telefis Eireann, (RTE) when it launched its second national radio station in 1979.

After several years as a disc jockey with the station, mostly on music shows, he got his big break in 1988 when he was offered his own programme, The Gerry Ryan Show, each weekday morning.

It mainly consisted of interviews and phone-ins and Ryan became one of the first of a now familiar genre of so-called shock-jocks who often took a no-nonsense line with their interviewees.

Wealth

The relative novelty of the programme's style helped feed its immense popularity and Ryan quickly became one of Ireland's best known and most well well-paid broadcasters.

The success of his career mirrored Ireland's emergence from the shadows of severe recession in the 1980s into the 'Celtic Tiger' of the 1990s when Irish people became far wealthier than they ever had been in their history.

However, the economic boom was not without its controversies as political corruption and scandals within the Irish Catholic church hit the headlines - grist to the mill for the regularly irreverent broadcaster who did not shy away from the difficult issues of the day.

Increasingly, the Gerry Ryan Show became a de-facto forum for the nation, the radio equivalent of the Late Late Show on RTE television.

And it would not be long before television would also come calling - Ryan flirted with the medium with varying degrees of success.

Riverdance

One of his most famous television appearances came not through his own performance but that which he introduced.

While presenting the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994, he and his co-presenter Cynthia Ni Mhurchu ushered on Riverdance - a mere interval act in the contest but a show which would become a worldwide phenomenon.

Ryan himself was offered the chance to take a financial stake in the show and declined - something he later admitted to regretting.

Proof perhaps that radio would be his natural home came when Gay Byrne stood down from the Late Late Show in 1999 and Ryan was one of the favourites to take the post.

In the end RTE went for Pat Kenny and Ryan continued to dominate the radio airwaves.

His show's popularity continued throughout the 2000s, and its relevance was never more pronounced than in the latter part of the decade.

Wasteland

Ireland turned from a prosperous, confident, united nation to an economic wasteland at odds with itself.

Ryan was for a time embroiled in the consequences - newspaper reports suggested that despite being one of RTE's highest paid broadcasters, he had initially refused to take a pay-cut to help the company deal with its own financial woes.

His private life was also in the headlines - his separation from his wife Morah, with whom he had five children, was a shock to many, given that their 26-year-long marriage was seen as one of the most solid in celebrity circles.

But at a time when once-trusted banks have been reduced to emasculated instruments of the state, a government has some of the lowest opinion poll ratings in history, and the Catholic Church stumbles from one crisis to another, Irish people could be sure that at least one institution would continue to tread a steady and sure path, attempting to guide them through their uncertainty, with the help of some ribald humour.

That institution has now also gone forever.



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