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Ireland mourns loss of top broadcaster Gerry Ryan

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SHAWN POGATCHNIK | April 30, 2010 01:11 PM EST | AP

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DUBLIN — Ireland mourned the shock loss Friday of one of the nation's best-known broadcasters, Gerry Ryan, who was found dead in his Dublin apartment after failing to broadcast his morning radio show, an Irish institution.

He was 53. The cause of death was not disclosed. Ryan had been living alone since he separated in 2008 from his wife Morah, with whom he had five children, aged 10 to 24.

Since 1988 Ryan, a Dublin pioneer of pirate radio who had an early reputation as a "shock jock," has hosted a three-hour morning radio show on national broadcasters RTE called simply The Gerry Ryan Show. It features live phone-ins, interviews and political satire.

He also fronted myriad RTE television talk shows and celebrity interviews – his Irish name recognition underscored by program titles such as "Ryantown," "Gerry Ryan Tonight," "Gerry Ryan's Hitlist" and "Ryan Confidential" – and was known for his outspokenness and coarse humor.

After police discovered Ryan's body Friday, his radio station RTE2 broke off its usual programing to play nonstop music for more than an hour as grief-stricken station employees absorbed the news.

Tributes poured in from all corners of Ireland's political and entertainment communities, led by Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who lauded Ryan as "one of the greats of modern Irish broadcasting."

"As a broadcaster, Gerry Ryan was both informed and intelligent, forthright and articulate," Cowen said. "As a man, he was generous, famously irreverent and witty."

The managing director of RTE Radio, Claire Duignan, said Ryan had gone home from work Thursday night complaining of feeling ill and not intending to come to work Friday.

"When he spoke with people to say he wouldn't be in today, they obviously expressed concern and asked: Did he need a doctor or anything like that?" Duignan said. "But he said no, he was fine, but he wouldn't be in today."

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.