He could be both controversial and compassionate, funny and frantic all in one go. Above all else Gerry Ryan was a unique broadcaster, often pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable in Irish broadcasting. Born into the leafy suburbs of Clontarf, Gerry lived with his Father and Mother who, as the programme states, was a member of the theatrical Bourke family and who’s sister was married to Eamon Andrews, she was also related, on her grandparents side to non other than Brendan Behan. Also when the young Gerry Ryan went to school he would become best mates with the nephew of one Mr Charles J. Haughey, with connections like this it is perhaps inevitable that Gerry Ryan was destined for the limelight.
Gerry Ryan: The Legacy, shown on RTE1 on Sunday night chronicled the rise and fall of one of Ireland’s most charismatic and divisive entertainers. The programme moves across all aspects of Gerry’s life, interviewing family, friends and colleagues of a man who interviewing those who knew him best from his eldest brother to Dave Fanning, Joe Duffy and Mark Cagney. Also heavily featured, (of course) was Morah, the famed Mrs Ryan who Gerry would often reference in many of his shows, so much so that she was as famous as he was.
Gerry Ryan joined RTÉ Radio 2 as it was originally known in the early 1980’s and immediately proved himself to be very different from his colleagues. During the twenty years or more on which the Ryan line was open Gerry Ryan no topic was off limits, pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable on Irish radio. From contraception, to the “S word” itself to showing care and compassion to a young rape victim who phoned his show and bravely gave up her right to anonymity, the Gerry Ryan Show had it all. This would often land him in hot water but, as the programme itself states, Gerry Ryan’s relationship with RTÉ was one of interdependence. No matter how much hot water he got himself into with the big wigs in the public broadcaster, the public itself it seemed, loved Gerry Ryan. As the Programme states he was offered lucrative contracts by other companies, but this just resulted in his current employers offering him better terms.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to last, the seemingly happily married Mrs Ryan left Gerry leaving him, as the programme states, heartbroken. Some months after Gerry Ryan was found dead having suffered a fatal heart attack on 30th April 2010. This particular reviewer can remember hearing the news on the radio catching the train from college to go back home for the weekend. Gerry Ryan was never squeaky clean and it’s doubtful if he would want to be remembered as such. He certainly didn’t pull any punches and while it would be wrong to call Gerry Ryan: A Legacy a “warts and all exposé” neither would it be fair to say that it was a loving tribute to a friend loved and lost. There was something too matter of fact, too rushed for it to come across as that. Instead it seemed like a programme rushed out to mark the ten year anniversary. The programme didn’t make you hark back to a time when things were better; what it did perhaps do however is illustrate just what a unique broadcaster Gerry Ryan was. It should be noted also that the man has left a legacy in more ways than one, with a new generation of Ryan offspring displaying their talents on the airwaves.