I was sitting in court yesterday listening to the closing speeches in the trial of Sean Keogh and David Curran, which I’m covering for the Sunday Independent. The press bench was fairly full, it usually is as a trial comes to an end and the verdict approaches.
Shortly before 3 o’clock a ripple went through the gathered journalists. Suddenly people weren’t taking down the particulars of the speeches but instead holding whispered conversations and poring over laptops and mobile phones with feverish intensity. The barristers continued in full flow to the jury as one by one the journalists got up and left hurriedly.
The speed with which people left their posts was different from the more unhurried reaction when a verdict in another court has come through. There was an urgency usually reserved for terrorist acts or the deaths of heads of state. Whatever was causing the mass exodus was something of national importance.
What had happened of course was that the news of Gerry Ryan’s death had started filtering through to newsrooms around the capital and those newsrooms were suddenly scrambling every available staff member. The news first broke on Twitter, I’m not going into the pros and cons of whether those using the social networking site should have broken the news when RTE, Ryan’s employers were holding off to allow for all his family to be notified. Twitter is the kind of place where it’s impossible to keep a secret, especially one this shocking.
If you’re not familiar with Irish broadcasting, Gerry Ryan was one the genuine stars. His show on RTE’s 2FM had been one of the biggest shows on Irish radio for over 20 years. I’d say there are very few people in this country who can honestly say they have never listened to his morning show, whether they tuned in regularly or not. He was a broadcaster everyone had an opinion of, be it good or bad, but there is no denying the fact that he was well loved by his colleagues and his legion of fans.
Whether you liked his style or not if you’ve ever worked in Irish broadcasting he was one of the ever present big names. News of his sudden death of a heart attack at the age of 53 was genuinely shocking, His passing leaves a sizeable hole in the 2FM schedule that will be extremely difficult to fill.
I was lucky enough to go on his show just before my book Devil was released in 2008. In one of the more bizarre twists of the trial, Gerry Ryan and his producer were both called by Sharon Collins’ defence team to be witnesses in the trial.
The day they were called there was excitement in court as we all arrived in to take our seats, passing by the familiar figure in a huddle with the barristers on the far side of the Round Hall. His evidence, when it came, was brief and somewhat underwhelming. It concerned one of the most salacious bits of evidence in the trial. An email found on Sharon Collins’ computer, addressed to the show, had detailed accusations of all kinds of sexual kinkiness from an unnamed partner. The email was being used by the prosecution as proof of intent but the defence were saying it was just a writing exercise that had never been sent. Gerry Ryan was called to back this up and confirm that he had never read the steamy contents of that email.
He took the stand and answered a few brief questions and the court sat in rapt attention before he and his producer disappeared to catch a plane to wherever they were due to do the show from the following day. He gave the trial a little sparkle that day and yet another bizarre twist in one of the oddest trials to have passed through the court.
When Collins and her co accused Essam Eid were sentenced in November 2008, just days before the book was due out, I got a call from the Gerry Ryan Show asking me to come on and talk about the trial. I was over the moon but it was by far the largest audience I’ve ever spoken to, even with a radio background.
I needn’t have worried. He was a brilliant interviewer. The time flew past and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much talking about a Central Criminal Court trial. He was happy to talk about his own involvement and it was one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve ever done.
It’s not much of a connection, a brief 15 minutes or so of shared air time, but it’s what came into my head when I heard he’d died. Irish broadcasting has lost one of it’s most larger than life characters and a consummate pro. I can only send my condolences to his family and friends and the colleagues who will also feel his loss acutely. RIP.