Family was ‘everything’ to Gerry

GERRY RYAN’S life changed beyond recognition in the past two years.

For 26 years, his marriage was considered one of the most rock-solid in Irish social circles and his constant references to Mrs Ryan were one of his broadcasting trademarks.

In 1997, Mrs Ryan famously got her own back on the husband she always called Gerard by ringing up pretending she was “Norah”. Half a million listeners heard a litany of complaints including how he was forever dumping his underpants on the floor, doesn’t put his clothes on hangers, had not cleaned the dog’s mess from the backyard for weeks and never puts the rubbish out. Finishing up, she triumphantly asked the all-believing broadcaster: “You would do that now, wouldn’t you Gerry?”

His production crew burst out laughing and a cringing Ryan told listeners: “This is my wife talking.” We all knew about her unexpected pregnancy, the domestic melodramas and that famous vasectomy which cemented his reputation as the housewife’s favourite cheeky chappie. While Gerry would often speak of his wife and daughters with affection on air, he rarely gave interviews on his private life, although he did in 2005, proclaiming: “Morah still seems like a girlfriend... she’s a constant source of surprise to me.”

Then came the shock press release in March 2008 that “it was with regret that Gerry and Morah Ryan announce their separation”. And, Ireland’s most famous motormouth fell silent – he refused to talk about the break-up – most noticeably in his autobiography.

“I read a lot of commentary in the newspapers about that but it’s all speculation, American pop psychology. What happened is a very private thing, we made a statement about our marriage, and that is it.” He did, however, get a quick dig in at former friends who weren’t bothering with him since the separation.

“Since Morah and I split up, an awful lot of people that I know haven’t even lifted the phone to ask me how I was. And do you know what, I don’t give a s***.” In what would unwittingly become his last ever broadcast, Gerry told his guest, Heather Mills, on Thursday night’s Ryan Confidential programme that he had “two articulated truckloads of regrets”, but the split was something Gerry never talked about.

By the end of 2008, it emerged he had begun dating the executive director of Unicef Ireland, Melanie Verwoerd – a demure former ANC activist and former member of the South African parliament, who has two children from her former marriage to Wilhelm Verwoerd, the grandson of the man considered the principal architect of apartheid. As one RTÉ colleague put it at the time, “she is beautiful, confident, articulate and very, very smart. If they are going out together, Gerry will be the one who has to stand up and listen.” The couple were said to be “very loving towards one another”.

“They were very cute in public. They looked very much in love” said another.

His children were of huge importance and that focus never wavered after he and Morah parted ways. “Family is everything. Without family you have no continuity, you have no future and you have no past.” Last Christmas, he told listeners he would be once again in the family’s Clontarf home. “We have a very big family, five children, so there’s an awful lot of Santa still going on. I have done the turkey for the past 25 years and I will be doing the same this time around and please God that will never change.”

Gerry once revealed that his separation proved so difficult that he had to seek therapy. But the couple’s relationship remained amicable with the pair even teaming up for a family holiday as well as spending Christmas together.

However, had he lived to, as William Butler Yeats put it, “comb grey hair”, Gerry might have gone on to marry Ms Verwoerd. In recent months, the pair had been inseparable on the social scene. In a revealing comment at a charity gala in the Ballsbridge Court hotel just before Christmas, Ms Verwoerd, borrowing from Beyoncé’s hit “Single Ladies”, teasingly remarked from the stage: “If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it…” The message, she said, was directed at a certain “RTÉ personality in the room”. As the room erupted in laughter, Gerry simply sat grinning in the direction of the stage.

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