Wednesday 21 March 2018

Rejection handled badly by RTE, says Pat Kenny

Ken Sweeney

Ken Sweeney

BROADCASTER Gerry Ryan was "hurt" and shattered after he failed to land the prestigious role as presenter of ‘The Late Late Show’.

His RTE colleague Pat Kenny was among friends and family who painted a picture of a stressed and shattered man in his contribution to last night’s documentary on the life of Ryan.

Kenny, himself the former presenter of ‘The Late Late Show’, revealed that Ryan was left reeling after being snubbed as his replacement in 2009.

Kenny said the way the issue was dealt with had a huge impact on the 53-year-old, who had previously presented the flagship RTE chat show when Kenny was unavailable.

Afterwards Ryan had said: “I can always say, it'll be on my grave that I presented the ‘Late Late’ . . . once.”

Tragically the larger-than-life shock jock was dead one year later, having suffered a massive heart attack at his rented home in Dublin.

An inquest heard that his heart failure was likely triggered by cocaine, but friends said that Ryan had other demons during the months leading up to his death.

These included the death of his mother and the break-up of his marriage of 26 years, which all happened over the preceding three years.

Ryan appeared to have spent his life preparing for ‘The Late Late Show’ job and was most bookies’ favourite to fill the hot seat in early 2009, only to be pipped by the younger Ryan Tubridy.

It was among a series of hammer blows that made friends describe the gregarious presenter as “much less happy” during his final weeks and months.

Kenny criticised RTE chiefs who kept their top presenters waiting on tenterhooks before announcing Tubridy as a successor in April 2009.

Kenny said: “Either they should have made an act of faith and given him the job, or told him in advance it wasn't going to happen. I think the process may have hurt him far more than the rejection.”

Kenny likened Ryan to Gay Byrne and Terry Wogan as one of the true originals of Irish broadcasting, with his “own unique style”.

RTE colleague Dave Fanning told how he had tried to help Ryan deal with the sense of distress he felt in his final months, as he struggled with mounting problems.

“I remember having to sit him down once and saying to him, ‘Listen, that's just the way it's going to go, Gerry. These things happen. There is no point in giving out about X, Y and Z, or giving out about that or this person’.”

Produced by David Blake-Knox, the RTE special ended last night in a series of moving tributes to Ryan.

BBC presenter Chris Evans, who famously had been inspired to resume his radio career after hearing Ryan while on a fishing holiday in Ireland, said he could understand the pressures of the job.

“When you do a brilliant show, you come off and you're flying. What do you do for the rest of the day? Where's the party? Well, there isn't one. So what do you do? You go and chase one.”

Rock star Bono, who contributed to Ryan’s funeral, added: “He lit up the room that he walked into. So it will never be as bright being about Dublin without him.”

But journalist Fiona Looney, who had often guested with Ryan on his 2fm programme, said: “In all the time I knew him, he was a pretty happy-golucky guy, but I think in the last few years a lot of that faded. He was much more introspective and much less happy.”

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