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From a rock in a sock to being a shock jock - he was always controversial

Gerry Ryan's sense of mischief and strong views landed him in hot water often


Gerry with his Mazda Xedos in 2001

Gerry with his Mazda Xedos in 2001

Gerry with his Mazda Xedos in 2001

Gerry Ryan's first foray into the broadcasting world was with a fun-filled stint in his youth, working on Dublin pirate stations like ARD and Big D radio.

However, his move to RTE's new youth station in 1979 heralded a new departure for the trainee solicitor, one which he wasn't altogether comfortable with at the start.

He would later earn himself the reputation of 'Ireland's biggest shock jock' thanks to his often controversial views and reluctance to bite his tongue on any topic.

Speaking about the jump up to the hallowed environs of Montrose, he once said: "Production on pirate radio meant flipping through a stack of records, getting on your bike and heading down to your friend's shed.

"Preparing in RTE meant sitting down with a producer, timing the records, rehearsing... we thought it was all absolute BS!"

But along with his former pirate radio pals Mark Cagney and Dave Fanning, he took to his new gig with aplomb and proved a natural at the on-air patter. He gradually built up a big following among its young target audience, and he began going out on the road with his weekend music show.


Gerry Ryan at the RTE Radio Centre in 1989

Gerry Ryan at the RTE Radio Centre in 1989

Gerry Ryan at the RTE Radio Centre in 1989

"The record companies started bombarding us with interview offers of bands. We did a roadshow called Beat On The Street with big lighting rigs and sound systems. It was like being in a band ourselves," Ryan said.

But he came to prominence in 1987 thanks to an incident which became known as 'Lambo'.


Gerry was one of a group who had embarked on a survival course in Connemara. He was reporting back for the Gay Byrne Radio Show as they tested out some of the theories in an SAS survival handbook.


Ryan presenting the Eurovision in 1994 with Cynthia Ni Mhurchu

Ryan presenting the Eurovision in 1994 with Cynthia Ni Mhurchu

Ryan presenting the Eurovision in 1994 with Cynthia Ni Mhurchu

But he may have bitten off more than he could chew after claiming to have clubbed a lamb to death using a rock in a sock before butchering and eating it.

The incident sparked a huge controversy and was even brought up in the Dail and led to a garda investigation.

Panicked, Gerry and his co-conspirators then claimed to have made up the entire story and said it was all an elaborate hoax - creating more outrage.

The publicity didn't hurt his career though, given that RTE offered him his own morning chat-show on 2fm the following year in 1988. It proved an instant hit.

Unrepentingly honest, Gerry often refused to tone down his strong views and controversial remarks, and occasionally landed himself in hot water with RTE chiefs as a result.

In 2007, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC) found that he had caused "undue offence" after referring to Jesus Christ as a "Palestinian terrorist" on his show.

The BCC said that he had made the comments just to shock people. It also criticised Ryan for "belittling" a man who phoned in to complain about the phrase.

His next controversy came when he supported a campaign for an Irish version of 'Megan's Law', the US legislation which compels law enforcement authorities to make information on registered sex offenders readily available.

"We have the right to know who these sex offenders are, what they look like and where they are living," he told listeners as RTE chiefs were choking on their cornflakes.

"In many other jurisdictions you are not only given the right to know, but you can go on a website and put in your area and they will give you a list of convicted sex offenders with details of where they live, with names and pictures."

In March 2009, he became embroiled in a huge controversy over pay-cuts in RTE after the recession hit the country.

Despite being the second highest-paid presenter that year, earning around €600,000, he held out on taking a 10pc cut for months.

At the time, he dismissed the calls for him to slash his pay as "bulls**t". He eventually caved in and, taking the cut, he said he had "no regrets" about biding his time.

"The bottom line is I am not in the business of trying to make people like me," he once told the Irish Independent.

"My job is to make good radio. Do I want to be popular? It's definitely not my top priority.

"People will form their own opinions about me as they always have. If people dislike me, they dislike me."

This theme was carried on in his memoirs, where he painted a dark relationship with alcohol. In his 2008 autobiography, Would The Real Gerry Please Stand Up, he admitted to regularly downing a third of a bottle of whiskey.

Unrepentant, he said that alcohol was part of who he was and he was not going to water down his personality.

"For better or worse, the Gerry Ryan you listen to on the radio, or watch on the television, is a guy who drinks too much. That's part of the package," he said at the time.

Despite struggling with his own weight issues, he successfully fronted Operation Transformation for two series prior to his death.

At one point, he admitted taking Reductil slimming tablets in a bid to shed a few pounds as all that good living started to take its toll on his waist-line.


"I'm the unhealthiest person on the red carpet. I lost a stone before Operation Transformation just so that I could say it. I'm trying to keep to it," he told this newspaper.

"I have tried some of the methods of Operation Transformation but I'm sticking with the Gerry Ryan method, which is eat less than you did yesterday."

Initially better suited to radio than TV, he had several forgettable TV programmes, including Ryantown, which he said was "the worst television experience I've ever had in my entire life".

He also fronted Secrets before hitting his stride with Ryan Confidential, produced by his good friend David Blake-Knox.

Probably his best TV show ever and airing from 2004 up to 2010, it saw him sitting down with his celebrity pals in an intimate setting and getting them to divulge far more details than they probably intended.

Interviewees ranged from Hugh Hefner to Conan O'Brien and the late Terry Wogan.

Most notably, he interviewed movie star Colin Farrell, whose use of "salty language" prompted a string of complaints.

He also interviewed his friend and fellow presenter Ryan Tubridy.

Tubridy turned the tables on Gerry and interviewed him to publicise the release of his autobiography - although Gerry's original plan was to interview himself, which was unsurprisingly vetoed by programme bosses.

Just before his death, he got confirmation from RTE chiefs that he was due to finally land his own flagship TV chat show which was due to start in autumn 2010. Sadly it was one dream he would never fulfil in a life that was cut short too soon.