Barry's humour and talent will be sadly missed
Published 15/03/2011 | 05:00
Journalism lost one of its finest yesterday when Gerald Barry, a genuinely modest man who spent his life disguising an extravagant talent, died in a Dublin hospital.
Although he absorbed almost everything going on in the 1980s, Barry avoided much of the hedonistic excesses that stalked journalists.
But I do recall seeing him dancing cheek to cheek with Mary Harney in Joy's nightclub when they were dating -- and they remained close friends until his death.
Barry (63), who had been ill for some time, was best known as a broadcaster, but he distinguished himself in newspapers later on in an action-packed 40-year career.
For years on 'This Week', he was a familiar and reassuring voice on RTE radio at Sunday lunchtime in homes all over the country.
From the early 1970s he was a mainstay of RTE's formidable news gathering team and learned his craft with a troop who pioneered much of current affairs broadcasting.
He trailblazed through the 1970s and 1980s with Sean Duignan, Mike Burns and Kevin Healy, a group of special journalistic talents who shared a 'Who Dares Wins' motto.
I remember sharing a car trip to a Fine Gael conference in Galway with him in the 1970s where he showed as much talent for unbridled fun as he did for disciplined reporting.
He came into his own in the 1980s, reporting from Argentina through the Falklands conflict and keeping score in the great political duel of the era between Garret FitzGerald and Charlie Haughey.
Dr FitzGerald chose to launch his 'Constitutional Crusade' for a more liberal society in an interview with Barry.
He drew the gripping 'Go Dance On Someone Else's Grave' interview from Mr Haughey after one of the epic leadership heaves in Fianna Fail.
The other great passion in his life outside journalism was Manchester United and football and he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of both.
When he met someone for the first time they would recognise his voice from the radio but he was spared the instant intimacy from strangers that can be visited on television presenters.
He had impeccable manners and when approached went way beyond the call of duty to accommodate anyone seeking help or information.
The public usually expects a fluent broadcaster and chronicler of events to be loquacious, but Barry was a more practised listener than talker -- and it came through in his work.
He carried a quiet authority through his career and this was reflected in the sound judgments he made -- and there was always understated intelligence present in his work.
But one of Barry's most enduring and endearing talents was for friendship, and his loyalty was unswerving to those he had befriended.
Yet any chronicle of Gerry Barry's gifts would also have to include the kindness and patience he showed to younger journalists hoping to make a career.
He was never too busy or too important to stop for a quiet chat or give a reassuring pat on the back to some young reporter trying to make sense of an occasionally insane craft.
Some of his finest work was on newspapers, when he became deputy editor in the 'Sunday Tribune' working with Vincent Browne.
The close bond between the pair puzzled many of their contemporaries. But Gerry walked out of the boardroom when a motion to dismiss Mr Browne as editor of the 'Tribune' was passed and they remained close friends long after Mr Barry returned to RTE in 1995.