Michael bids farewell as RTE tells him he will no longer front Nationwide
FOR nearly 20 years he has criss-crossed the country. There has been a warm welcome for him in every town and village in Ireland.
But much-loved RTE 'Nationwide' presenter Michael Ryan has finally reached journey's end due to budget cuts at the station, and will be finishing up at the end of the year.
He officially retired two years ago from RTE but the 67-year-old had been working for the station on a freelance basis.
However due to cutbacks, he has been told that his contract is not being renewed when it finishes next month.
"I found out a couple of weeks ago when Cillian de Paor, acting managing director of news and current affairs, called me in and said there was no money and their back was to the wall. Anybody who is not on staff, they just have to save on the money they're paying them," Mr Ryan told the Irish Independent.
But the Wexford-based broadcaster said he is not bitter about the station's decision.
"If RTE are in a situation where they are having to let young freelancers go, maybe older guys like me shouldn't be hanging around.
"That's a fair approach. All I can say is 'thank you'. I've enjoyed it immensely and now it's time to get off the stage," he said.
Originally from Marino in Dublin, the broadcaster and journalist learned his trade as a cub reporter with the 'Evening Herald' and 'Irish Independent'.
He joined RTE in 1966 and worked on Frank Hall's magazine programme 'Newsbeat' before moving into news and current affairs.
It was around 18 years ago as RTE's Eastern Correspondent, Mr Ryan devised the idea for 'Nationwide' and it was an immediate hit with the viewers.
"The key to 'Nationwide' is that it comes on after an hour of national and international news which is mostly grief. People want a break from that so we give them soft-centred features. We're not confrontational and people like that," said Mr Ryan who was programme editor until two years ago.
The RTE star said this is proven every time his team shows up in a town or village across Ireland.
"People always get a bit suspicious when they see TV cameras but once they find out we're 'Nationwide', there's a huge welcome," he said.
The father of three said he hopes to spend his retirement travelling with his second wife Elisabeth McCollum who he married last year. Mr Ryan's first wife Ann was killed in a car crash 16 years ago.
His current co-presenter Mary Kennedy, who joined him on 'Nationwide' on 2004, will present the magazine show solo from January. Mr Ryan has already filmed for sister show 'Nationwide Revisited' which will air into 2012.
Ms Kennedy said: "Whenever Michael turned up in a small town he got as much joy meeting the locals as they got from meeting him. 'Nationwide' was his baby and he was a wonderful person to work alongside. I will really miss him."
Mr Ryan and Ms Kennedy will do their last programme together in Galway on December 8.