TAOISEACH Brian Cowen was one of the first to pay tribute to the late broadcaster Gerry Ryan.
Speaking on RTE's Drivetime yesterday afternoon, which started broadcasting half an hour earlier than scheduled to relay news of the broadcaster's sudden death, Mr Cowen paid tribute to a "broadcaster of great talent and popularity".
"I think everyone is deeply saddened to learn of Gerry's untimely death, and as has been said by your colleagues, he was a household name, a broadcaster of great talent and popularity, and I think his legion of fans, thousands of people who saw his morning show particularly as compulsive listening, will be greatly shocked and saddened by this news of his untimely death."
Mr Cowen told host Mary Wilson that he faced Gerry Ryan for five interviews -- and told of how he never found Ryan to be unfair, and that, as an interviewee, you knew you had to get your point in quickly or else "he would come charging after you". During the course of the interview, Mr Cowen conveyed his deepest sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of the late broadcaster.
The Drivetime segment also featured Liveline host Joe Duffy, RTE Radio boss Clare Duignan, and 2fm's John McMahon. Mr Cowen described Ryan as "engaging company, he was a man of considerable charm".
But it was his skills in his delivery of stories to his listeners, and his fearlessness in stirring controversy as well as challenging the views of his audience which came in for special praise from the Taoiseach.
"He was able to bring an audience that perhaps wouldn't normally distinctively deal with or look at those issues to any degree of enthusiasm.
"But because of his ability to crystalise an issue -- you need intelligence to make complex issues more easily accessible to an audience -- he wasn't a shallow man, he was a very educated, well-read intelligent guy who had views of his own, who had opinions. But he was prepared to defend those opinions and he was also prepared to listen and change and modify," Mr Cowen said.
"So he wasn't an advocate for his own view of the world, he was very much prepared to put his view out there and be, if you like, a receptacle of many views coming back to him, and being well informed and giving a good rounded public view of issue on that basis.
"So I think those sort of attributes that he had, and that informality, makes him one of the icons of modern Irish broadcasting, both on radio and television."