Tuesday 30 May 2017

Ryan turned down offers of help to beat cocaine habit

Anne-Marie Walsh

FORMER RTE presenter Gareth O'Callaghan last night revealed he offered to help his friend Gerry Ryan beat his long-term drug addition, but the broadcaster never took him up on it.

O'Callaghan, who is a qualified clinical psychotherapist, revealed he approached Ryan at least twice to get him to take the first steps to kick his cocaine habit.

O'Callaghan also revealed he came under fire at the weekend from former RTE colleagues for speaking about the extent of his friend's drug abuse.

The presenter, who now works at 4FM, was one of the top presenters at 2fm in the 1990s. He is one of the few friends of Ryan who has been willing to comment in the wake of last week's inquest which confirmed cocaine had contributed to his death.

O'Callaghan criticised the code of silence that has followed the drugs-linked deaths of Ryan and former model Katy French, and insisted the aim of his words was to prevent further cocaine casualties.

"I got a couple of phone calls from individuals who were very annoyed with my comments," he told the Irish Independent.

"My reaction was, 'Why were they worried when there was not one word of a lie?'

"One of them asked me why I wanted this publicity and why I didn't let him rest in peace.

"I said, 'I'm getting nothing out of it'.

"It's a highly dangerous drug and there is a generation coming up behind us, including my two daughters, who will be exposed to it.

"This type of socialising needs to be condemned by poeple who don't agree with it. It's highly illegal and highly irregular. To stay silent is like accepting this is a way of life for people in the business.

"If I don't criticise and condemn it, I might be interpreted as someone who condoned it."

He said people should know that Ryan's abuse of the drug was not just a "once off".

"The outcome after the inquest seemed to be that the only reason he was doing it was because he was under severe pressure, but the only reason he was under such severe pressure was that he was doing it for so long," he said.

He said he first became aware of Ryan's cocaine use when he presented the Eurovision in the mid-1990s. Five years ago, he tried to do something about it.

"I approached him about it once or twice and offered to help. I said, 'Gerry, I'd be delighted to help you.'

Confronted

"I confronted him and said 'I'm very worried about you and if you ever want to talk to someone professionally, please come to me'. He just looked at me and said 'I'll keep it at the back of my mind'. I kind of knew that it wasn't going to happen."

O'Callaghan said his behaviour was sinister on occasion, but predictable for an addict.

A friend rang him once to say they had seen Ryan outside the Four Seasons Hotel, sweating profusely, looking distressed and anxious, and speaking "a dozen words a minute" into his mobile phone.

"When you need a fix badly enough, you'd walk all over your kids or on hot coals to get it," he said.

"The man must have been guarding some awful secrets to have kept his habit secret."

However, his drug abuse was an open secret among his colleagues and the name of his phone line -- 'the Ryan line' -- became an in-joke because of his addiction.

He said in the position Ryan was in, he should have "put his hands up and said 'I want help'".

"I think his supporters would have rallied behind him if he had done that."

Irish Independent

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