For 22 years his weekday talk programme on RTÉ 2fm became one of the most listened to radio shows in Ireland and, while he has not been without his critics, he managed to keep his daytime radio slot even when all about him were losing theirs.
Like many broadcasters in Ireland, Ryan began his career on pirate radio, working part-time first for Alternative Radio Dublin and then for Big D. When RTÉ launched Radio 2 in 1979 they deliberately looked to pirate radio presenters to help them win back young listeners and Gerry was an obvious choice.
He joined the national broadcaster as a DJ, presenting Here Comes the Weekend on Friday nights and Saturday Scene on Saturday mornings, earning the princely sum of £78 a week, a far cry from his earnings of over €500,000 last year.
He then formed a brat- pack with fellow presenters Dave Fanning and Mark Cagney. The trio toured the country, dressed as a rock band and each presented a nightly music show.
Dubbed ‘the three big mouths’, he later recalled how they stayed in awful hotels, drinking heavily and often ending up in dodgy nightclubs.
Never far from controversy, he caused uproar in 2004 for cancelling an interview with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who had agreed to appear on The Gerry Ryan Show after the delivery of that year’s budget. The Taoiseach was furious, saying “you can’t just ask for an interview with the most powerful man in the country and then ditch him as if he was some stand-in celebrity”. Ahern was replaced by RTÉ’s economics reporter George Lee.
In 1994, he co-presented the Eurovision Song Contest with Cynthia Ní Mhurchú, introducing Michael Flatley and Jean Butler and the interval act Riverdance which on to become a worldwide phenomenon. He later wrote of his regret in turning down an offer to invest £20,000 in Riverdance.
Though tipped as successor to Gay Byrne on the Late Late Show, the job went to Pat Kenny in 1999. He did get to present it in October 2008, though, filling in for Kenny whose mother had died.
His more successful forages into television included Gerry Ryan’s Hitlist, Ryan Confidential and Operation Transformation.
In the early part of 2008, Ryan announced that he had been contracted to write his autobiography. The €100,000 advance paid by Penguin to Ryan was reported to be the largest ever paid for a book published in Ireland. Would the Real Gerry Ryan Please Stand Up? was released in October 2008 but by the following January had only sold just over 10,000 copies.
Second only to Pat Kenny as Irish broadcasting’s highest earner, he had a salary of €558,000 in 2008. Ryan again courted controversy when he refused to take a 10% pay cut but announced a U-turn live on his radio show.
Ryan met his wife Morah in 1978 but the couple separated in 2008. They have five children aged from nine to 23 – Lottie, Rex, Bonnie, Elliot and Babette.