AS the tributes flooded in for Gerry Ryan, the truth, as seen by those close to him, was that the bombastic exterior hid a darker, more troubled man.
On the afternoon before his death, a high-profile businessman described meeting him in the Four Seasons Hotel and noting that he was “very tired looking”.
“He had a lot on his mind,” said a friend. “I was only speaking to him recently and he was in a bad way. Very bad. He had a lot on his plate. It had certainly been a tough couple of months for him.”
On her radio show this weekend, Marian Finucane said she had dinner with the tragic star last Tuesday and was also struck by the fact that he appeared very stressed.
The RTE presenter said she and her husband had dined with Gerry Ryan and his partner Melanie on Tuesday night, when he confirmed he was stressed about RTE and other things in his life.
“I bumped into him and his partner Melanie. It was South Africa Day and there was an event and we met, and the four of us had dinner.
“He was in typical Gerry form. Larger than life, full of asides and jokes and outrageousness and all of that. And he was also, I think, very stressed. He was really very, very stressed,” she said.
“He was stressed about RTE. He was stressed about other things outside his life and I know that when people try to figure out what happened . . . I have heard a number of people mention that (stress) might have been what caused difficulty for him.”
Last Thursday, he cheered up considerably with friends at the exclusive Town Bar and Grill restaurant.
Ryan, who was trying to live a healthier lifestyle, was drinking from early evening before he dined with friends, including businessman Graham Beere and impresario Dave Kavanagh.
Ryan picked up the tab for dinner, asking staff to send him the bill. He left for home at around 11.30pm while his friends went on to Residence private members club.
Ryan was found dead on Friday by his girlfriend, Melanie Verwoerd.
She had called to his house at around 8am to check if her partner was okay. She got no answer and left.
She returned around midday and, increasingly worried, she asked two builders working on a neighbouring property to break the locks. They found Ryan lying lifeless on his bedroom floor.
Gardai said Ryan’s death was not suspicious. A postmortem to determine the cause of death may not be carried out until after the weekend, according to garda sources.
According to sources close to the high-flying presenter, Ryan had confided in a number of close friends he was suffering constant worry behind the scenes in recent weeks.
Although he earned €629,865 per annum, company records show the broadcaster was heavily borrowed and still had significant debts to overcome in his final years at RTE.
Ryan notably caused controversy when he initially refused to take a 10 per cent pay cut earlier this year. He then saw his salary fall between 2007 and 2008 from €676,354 to €629,865.
However, official company records obtained by the Sunday Independent show that by the end of 2008, he owed his own holding company €246,242 in director’s loans.
Meanwhile, Ryan’s RTE colleague, Miriam O’ Callaghan, has said she regrets “an unfortunate series of events” which led to her posting a message about the death on her Twitter site before RTE had confirmed the news.
At 2.40pm on Friday, an hour before Montrose announced the news, the Prime Time presenter left a post saying: “Tragically it is true. So terribly shocking and sad. Life is just too cruel sometimes. RIP.”
She received a call from RTE minutes later asking her to remove the post.
O’Callaghan said: “It had already been on another radio station and people had posted about it on Twitter, with one saying ‘where are all Gerry’s so-called friends and colleagues and why aren’t they saying anything nice about him?’ I thought that was horrible so I put up a nice comment, but didn’t even mention Gerry’s name. RTE called two minutes later and advised me to take it down. It was an unfortunate series of events and I didn’t mean to upset anyone. I loved Gerry. He was a good friend and a great broadcaster,” she said.
Head of radio Clare Duignan said RTE held back on confirming the story to allow close family and friends to be contacted.
“We didn’t break the news because we did not want those close to him to hear through the radio. The family asked us. It’s unfortunate other media didn’t show the same respect.” 2 fm boss John McMahon said Ryan's family's wishes came first.