- 20 Mar 01
With his upwardly mobile CV and flash lifestyle trappings, VIP publisher JOHN RYAN looks like the personification of the Celtic Tiger at its most all-consuming. Not so, says the man himself, believing he has paid a high personal price for his business success. But can he take the flak as calmly as he dishes it out? JOE JACKSON finds out. Pictures: Colm Henry
John Ryan just may be the perfect embodiment of young, modern Ireland. On the surface he s got it all a Mercedes sports car, a girlfriend who is a model and TV presenter, an apartment in Dublin 4 and a forty per cent ownership of VIP, the best selling monthly magazine in the country.
Ryan has also built up a pretty impressive CV. He left school, and Ireland, in 1987, the day he finished a very average Leaving Certificate in Monkstown s CBC, emigrated to London where he lived in squats, worked on building sites and later became a journalist working for local newspapers such as the Islington Gazette. This was followed by a stint reporting from war zones in Bosnia, South Africa and Rwanda before he returned to Ireland in 96 where he soon became a contributor to The Sunday Independent. His subsequent journalistic gigs included editorship of In Dublin, features editor of The Irish Independent, editor of Magill and most influentially of all, perhaps, editor of the Culture section of The Sunday Times which has, since that period, become one of the best selling British Sunday newspapers in Ireland. In addition to VIP he is the publisher of TV Now and his latest venture is the soon to be launched VIP Style.
However, it could also be argued that the 31-year-old John Ryan has paid a high price for his success, at a personal level. On the night VIP was launched his brother noted that the family felt they should come along and support John because he s made so many enemies we were afraid no one would turn up! Ryan certainly pissed off at least some of the people he profiled in The Sunday Times and also attacked, anonymously, via his weekly Daedelus column. This may account, in part, for what he claims is the relentlessly negative press he himself receives and why he became decidedly defensive towards the end of this interview.
Joe Jackson: So is there a price you paid for your success?
John Ryan: I certainly paid some kind of price. And though I dispute that claim you say my brother made, I would agree that I am generally unpopular. But we are only talking about the small circus that is the Dublin media. Amongst that collection of people many form an impression of me before they even meet me, just don t like me, to begin with. So I am generally disliked and I sense that, too, from what people write about me. And the irony is that I am somebody who would like to be liked! Yet I am resigned to the fact that I m not going to have wholesale approval. But I assure you that anybody who has worked with me over the past four years will have at least one nice thing to say about me!
Let s go back to the beginning of your career. Did you go to England with the sole objective of becoming a journalist?
No. I wanted to get-the-fuck out of Ireland. 87 was, if you remember, a year in which 30,000 people of my age left. You only have to watch Reeling In The Years to know how depressed things were.
But how were things in your own home? Were there family pressures, which also influenced your move to England?
It was a strange time in my life. I don t want to rubbish my family but my parents were in the process of splitting up and the atmosphere in the house was a contributory factor in terms of getting out of here, yes. The two years before I went was an extremely unhappy time. My brother had long gone, my older sister, Anna, had gone so there was just my twin and myself. And all of us would be classified as economic refugees. We had to go because there wasn t a great deal of money in the house.
My father s family owned the Monument Creameries and were extremely wealthy, to begin with, but by the time I was 10, 11, that money was running out and my mother owned a boutique in Monkstown so that was keeping us going. But we certainly were intellectually privileged. Quite bohemian, very artistic. My father, for example, started the first Bloomsday, with Anthony Cronin, in 1954. So when it came to the question of my moving into journalism, I certainly could string a sentence together.
Did the fragmentation of your family leave you with a lack of faith in the family unit?
I used to feel I was anti-conformist but now I realise I actually was anti-family. I didn t believe it had any place in modern life. I was certainly anti-marriage, against settling down with one person. Though, that said, I was a serial monogamist in London, went from one long relationship into another. I was, by no means, a ladies man. But then I also was extremely anal when I lived in England! Because I am very fatalistic I thought, when I got the job in the local newspaper, this is the only job I will ever get, the only chance I ll have that will amount to anything. I ran the kids page and went to council meetings every single evening! Even sub-committee meetings! I really was that desperate. Thinking the guy in the suit was going to tap me on the shoulder at any moment, say it s all over. Out.
So, at 22, 23, I was a very uptight, clean-cut guy, absolutely detemined to normalise my life. Meaning, to answer your original question, my faith in the family wasn t shattered. On the contrary, it left me with a desire to create a stronger family for myself. But, even then, I was single-mindedly in pursuit of my career.
Are you the kind of shadowed individual who yields to black moods? Say, after the break-up of a relationship?
Yes. You asked earlier about the sacrifices I ve made. I d say that of all the sacrifices the personal sacrifice that cost me most over the past five years was the loss of one relationship in particular. So I do suffer, like every Irishman, waves of melancholy. But I wouldn t say I m depressive in the clinical sense. I m too optimistic to be, completely, a depressive. Yet I do yield to black moods. What depresses me most is having a sense of personal failure. Feeling that whatever success I ve had in my career, has never been matched by personal success. My big fault was that I got into relationships believing I could have the career and the relationship, not realising fuck, relationships take a lot of work, too .
You are talking here, presumably, about your relationship with Cliodhna Ni Bhuachalla?
Yeah. And it didn t work out.
Was that even partly because the affair became seemingly endless fodder for The Sunday Independent?
Cliodhna is better known than I am. She was, in effect, the story. And that was extremely difficult because Cliodhna is an extremely private person and it s my greatest regret.
That the relationship became public or that it ended?
That I wasn t the person I could have been. But you re overstating the case when you say the relationship became public. A couple of mentions in the Sunday Indo does not a high-profile relationship make. But, yes, this did add to the pressures on us. Incredibly so. And we were already under pressure as a couple. Because I would come home, having put everything into my work, completely drained, and she would come back not just drained but after being kicked about by critics and I wish I had been more supportive for Cliodhna. I wish I knew the things I know now, even two years later. But my own personal ambition prevented that relationship from developing. And I take full responsibility for the breakdown of it.
Did you also feel there was a lack of support from Radio Ireland in terms of the critical mauling Cliodhna s show got and the fact that she and you were dropped by the station?
I don t think anybody that built Radio Ireland was prepared for the attacks during the first six months. And there was chronic mismanagement in there. I m not going to say Cliodhna was treated any worse than, say, Philip Boucher Hayes, who was just given a white envelope one morning and he had put his heart and soul into this gig. But as for Cliodhna, she d come from Tyrone Productions [a company owned by Radio Ireland/Today FM boss, John McColgan] and went back into Tyrone and given that McColgan is Chairman she was eased out in as polite a way as possible. But the public perception was that the show was not a success. In fact, it was a shit time. A terrible time. From around the summer of 96, I don t remember long periods of happiness after that, for some reason.
As for me and Radio Ireland, let s face it, I was a lousy radio presenter! We did the Sunday Supplement and I thought it was great to bring together people like Declan Lynch, Eoghan Harris and let them rip. And I just had to sit back! Maybe intially, I did wonder if I could get into RTE but I don t have that RTE gene.
How would you describe that RTE gene?
I used to describe The Sunday Independent and RTE with a word a friend of mine created: nepotocracies ! But I do lack the RTE gene, which is a certain voice, someone who is not very subversive. Nobody in RTE is subversive. Even Gerry Ryan, who claims to be the voice of rebellion in RTE. He s about as subversive as Delia Smith! Who s doing the Breakfast Show? Damian McCall! How subversive is Oooo missus ? Then you have Gareth O Gallaghan, all lovely, great broadcasters etc., etc., but there is nothing left-of-centre about any of them. Certainly, I am left-of-centre and, doing The Sunday Supplement, we did things RTE would have come down very heavily on. So, in truth, I probably realised there wasn t much of a future for me in Radio Ireland or RTE.
It s said you were you pissed off at the way you were dismissed by Radio Ireland, felt Sam Smyth was over-eager to get your gig.
It was going to be called Sam on Sunday from the outset but he was under contract to the Indo and there was an election coming up and he couldn t do it. So I was going to sit in for him until the election. But the Sunday Supplement became critically popular at a time when everything else on Radio Ireland, apart from Eamon Dunphy, was under attack, so I stayed with it. But Sam Smyth didn t like a lot of things about the show. Nor did Eamon, who was, and is, very powerful in Radio Ireland/Today FM. And they wanted Sam in the seat.
So I got a phone call one morning, from this Scottish guy, Tom Steel. He says Ah, John I was wondering if you d like to take the summer off! And this was in February! That was it. A thirty second conversation! So I said would you prefer Sam as a presenter? and he replied aye so I just said alright, thanks for the dance. And that was it. I never went back to it. Never even did a last show.
But then the early days in Radio Ireland were farcical. A total, chaotic mess. And the people who run that station have a lot to answer for, when it comes to that year and the way people were treated. It really was a place where I learned about management and how not to do it. It was a disgrace. And some of those people are still in gigs. So you wonder what-the-fuck they are doing.
So, overall, would you regard your stint as a broadcaster as a failure?
As I say, I arrived as a lousy presenter and left as a lousy presenter. So I don t think I ll ever be asked to present a show again. And I certainly wouldn t work in RTE. Not at the moment; it s not an atmosphere I d want to be part of.
TV Now gives a lot of space to radio, especially RTE. So is that just a marketing ploy, given that you seem to hate the station so much?
You broadcast on RTE and your shows are great. Richard Crowley is a brilliant broadcaster. So is Andy O Mahony. And TV Now is supportive of RTE at that level because RTE can do radio very well, but TV not so well. But RTE is a digusting place to work in. Virtually semi-abusive.
How would you know, you ve never worked there?
I know enough people who do, to have an opinion. And I ve done enough shows, as a guest, to know this is the case. I ve never met a happy RTE employee. And I d trace that tendency back to what I realised at Radio Ireland. That this has to do, primarily, with management. None of the people I know, who work in RTE, feel wanted, acknowledged for what they do. They go in to this bunker to broadcast and they re all on tenterhooks because no one tells them whether their show will be renewed, no-one tells them anything. Management in there leaves a lot to be desired. Though Shaw [Helen, Head of Radio] I have a slightly better opinion of now than I would have had two years ago. The way RTE treat people, frankly, is repulsive.
Was Vincent Browne, on Magill, a tyrant to work for?
He certainly had tyrant tendencies. And we had a volatile working relationship. Three-in-the-morning shouting matches!
One perception of Vincent and Magill is that he saw the magazine as his personal newsletter and would, say, rewrite articles to suit his own views, even if, at three in the morning, they were just about to be sent to the printer.
He wouldn t rewrite because he is not a fantastic writer. He d chuck out articles. There was a lot of stuff I commissioned he didn t like. But not in terms of its polemic or opinion. He wouldn t editorialise in that sense. He d regard a lot of the stuff I commissioned as trivial . To Vincent, anything that is not in the political arena is largely irrelevant. But you could forgive Vincent Browne anything because he has a deep social awareness. He really does feel for people. He s adopted a Brazilian kid, knows the working-class, knows junkies by name. Rough people. Bottom of the food chain. He s electric at that level.
But, overall, though it was tough to work for Vincent, it was inspiring. And I m proud of what we did at Magill. The second issue sold 44,000 copies and broke the Ray Burke stuff. It was only six months I was there but that was a miserable time of my life at a personal level, so I couldn t enjoy the success I had at Magill.
If you were going through personal traumas in terms of your relationships did that make you volatile in work? Were you a tyrant when you edited the Culture section of The Sunday Times?
Work would affect my moods. But I wouldn t bring pressures from my relationships into work. Yet if something was seriously amiss in work there were problems along the lines you re describing. And in the past, I have had tyrant tendencies. I certainly insisted on standards, a way of working. But no matter who got bollocked, I would hope people realise that was to do with work. It was never personal. Then again, there was no Culture, when I took over. Just two pages in the magazine dedicated to Ireland. And we wanted to make a noise, make this the place people would go to hone up on what was happening.
You also wanted to damage the appeal, and sales, of The Sunday Independent and Saturday s Irish Times!
We wanted to question such institutions. Take them on, in every sense. I worked with two of the best critic/writers in the country: Liam Fay and Michael Ross. The work Fay and Ross did that first year, when we were getting Culture off-the-ground, was amazing.
Did you rate your own work in Culture, as a writer/interviewer?
I m as good a journalist as I was a radio presenter!
So you don t rate yourself at all, as a journalist?
Not at all. Never did. Never will. But then I m not a journalist anymore. And I ll never go back to it. I won t write again.
So journalism was what? A means to an end which was to make money and now that you re hauling in the dough via VIP it s fuck journalism. Is that it?
No. I had a romantic notion of journalism I carried with me back to Ireland and I found it to be a profession that brutalised me as a human being. I thought, for example, that journalism would be, even occasionally, about writing. But I discovered if you re strictly a journalist, it s a disadvantage to be able to write. The journalist culture also dehumanised and desensitised me, made me a person I didn t want to be.
It s said you came to hate the culture of The Sunday Independent but was that the fact that it can be cannibalistic, voyeuristic?
All of that has a lot to do with why journalism, in any form, is dehumanising. For one thing, it s extremely macho, which doesn t bode well for any community. Though the Sunday Independent wasn t macho in the mid 90 s which is why I enjoyed it. There were women there. But overall, journalism is extremely macho, hard-drinking, vicious in the sense that journalists against journalists are, as you say, cannibalistic. There is this hatred of each other I ve never seen anywhere else.
Which you fed into, as part of the Culture magazine. Attacking people like Pat Kenny, Mike Murphy and John Boland. Wasn t that feeding into the culture of journalism you now claim to despise?
Yes it was.
Are you saying you really did become brutalised, didn t give a fuck who you hurt? As in using Daedelus to get digs back at people?
Yes. That s why I didn t like what I d become.
Was there a moment you realised I ve become a smug, self-centred shithead like the rest of them ?
Yeah. During the time of the Terry Keane memoirs last year. It started before then but came to a head when I was working with Terry on that article. Myself and Rory Godson were part of the team that brought her over from The Sunday Independent and I regret that I didn t advise against it. In terms of selling newspapers, it was fucking spectacular, but what it did to me personally I deeply regret.
Terry Keane s name was on those articles but didn t you actually write them?
I d tape the conversations with Terry then I d go away and transcribe that. But there was immense pressure on us because, when the story broke, on The Late Late Show, we were still writing the first instalment. And when the fall-out came that week, not only were we under siege in that respect, we had to produce the copy for the following week. That whole episode was horrendous.
So you left the paper, leaving Terry to fend for herself among fellow journalists on The Sunday Times who, it s said, were decidedly hostile towards her. Or, more specifically, the salary you d promised, to tempt her away from the Sunday Indo.
I can t comment on what happened to Terry after I left. All I can say is I d been partly responsible for bringing her on board. Although it was her people who approached The Sunday Times before I got involved. Either way, it was the biggest story of last year and any journalist would have been proud to be involved. And I was. Initially. But during the last conversation I had with Terry I did apologise to her. For not being able to anticipate the extent of the backlash, against her, personally. And I apologised because I left her in the lurch. That was, as I say, the story that made me realise I wasn t cut out for journalism. Middle Ireland directed its venom not towards Charlie Haughey but towards Terry. It was remiss of me not to anticipate that.
Has Terry forgiven you?
I ve no idea. We ve no reason to be in touch. But what really upset me I already said, earlier, that my personal ambition had driven everything for me and destroyed the things I now realise I didn t want destroyed, as in, a relationship. So by the time the Terry Keane thing came about I d had enough of journalism and felt that my interviews I d done in Culture, were, as you say, coruscating. Daedelus, too, though good-humoured and good-natured, could also be vicious to people we perceived as our enemies. I felt it had chipped away at me. So the Terry Keane thing, and the backlash, broke me. The last words I ve written apart from the odd headline or ad for VIP was the Terry Keane stuff.
But before that, were you really that insensitive to the feelings of others?
I was. And I know all this sounds touchy-feely, as if I was a totally different person, now, doing this interview. But the truth is that I wrote what I felt I had to write and I now see that whole process wasn t fair. That is a regret, on my behalf.
But was it the tabloid element of deliver the story at all costs and fuck the consequences?
Yes. But it was the only way I knew how to write!
As a result of working for The Sunday Independent?
No, I think The Sunday Independent had what Ireland needed at the time. It certainly was an antidote to The Irish Times! And though, okay, the Indo had its shabby elements and I was part of that it also had its polemics. I m sure Eamon Dunphy would regret his polemics against Pat Kenny but, at the time, it was essential. There was a smugness here in Ireland. Add to that the fact that I brought with me a London sensibility in the sense that there are sixteen million people in London so if you write about them you don t meet them in a local bar like the Shelbourne! But, finally, I felt I couldn t live here and write as I did. Because that was the only way I knew how to write.
Which, in the mid-90s did suit the tabloidisation of The Sunday Independent, under the editorship of Anne Harris, whose ideas you then extended into In Dublin and The Culture attacking sacred cows just for the sake of attacking them.
You talk about tabloidisation but what you really mean to say is populist. Anne Harris, if she was in Britain, would be declared a newspaper genius. You only have to look at the sales graph. That s the bottom line. She brought populist touches to a newspaper that had been moribund, brought the really seriously popular elements to a paper that now has a million readers every Sunday. So tabloid , though used as a dirty word, I don t regard it as such.
The Sunday Independent wasn t this trashy, headless chicken running riot, trying to ruin people s lives. And as regards Culture attacking sacred cows just for the sake of attacking them? Why not? We need a reason? The reason is because they are sacred cows. Smug institutions. Let s prod and rock the boat here. The only newspapers I m interested in are papers that do that. But do I want to be part of that attacking-sacred-cow culture myself, now? Not particularly.
I d sum up my role in Culture as someone who was supposed to throw bottles at the back of the room. My personal mistake was that I fucked a few bottles at people who I later realised I had been unfair to. As in that was a glib piece I wrote on you. And the Mike Murphy piece. Likewise, my interview with Emily O Reilly. I know my fellow journalists, on reading this, will probably say the stupid wanker, he s wimping out, couldn t stomach the heat. And it shouldn t bother me that Emily or Mike think I m a complete shit, but it does. And I admit that, in the final analysis, I was unfair to those people.
It really does seem that as some commentators have said you were well able to dish out the shit, in terms of criticism, but fell apart after the savaging you got when you presented, on @lasttv, a caricature of Michael Flatley that was as tasteless as the guy himself!
That whole experience was fucking devastating. A three-minute piece on late night TV and Eddie Holt, Emmanuel Keogh, John Boland, all the beardies went fucking nuclear, missed the point of the sketch.
John, you stripped off to the waist! Hardly an edifying sight!
But it wasn t look at my torso! I was bitching about Flatley and, suddenly, I became the man! But when critics responded that way I said fuck em, I ll have a pop at them in Deadalus. And I did. Particularly Boland. We mocked his poetry, invented lines: Rathmines bedsit/Two bar heater/Red Rizlas/I wonder if Blind Date is on?
Let s get back to your days at The Sunday Independent, which you left on bad terms. Partly, apparently, because of the Dear Mary debacle.
There certainly was the feeling that my Dear Mary letters were a major cock-up. And I take full responsibility for that. Though, actually, printing the Dear Mary letters is not the responsibility of the journalist who came up with the fucking idea! I didn t typeset the fucking thing. But the end finally came when I had a row with a secretary, who I felt was treating freelancers like shit, and Anne Harris took the side of that secretary. So I stormed out the door and never came back.
The end of your commitment to journalism came you said earlier as a result of your developing a hatred of its culture . But wasn t there also a point at which you were ready to leave Ireland and go and work in Wapping for Rupert Murdoch?
Absolutely. Because there was a rumour spread I don t think I could have recovered from, if it had gained wider currency. It had gained currency in media circles and been said by a journalist, to me, in a pub. As if this was a fact. That person said, loudly, in a pub, that people were saying I d beaten up a girlfriend. I found that deeply distressing. Still do. For a load of reasons. I have two sisters. And one of my first memories was seeing a man beating a woman, when I was a kid. A girl and a boy were on the street and he was dragging her up by the hair and I vomited at the sheer sight of that. So to have heard that about myself, honestly, apart from literally anything except murder I could have got over but not that.
Why? Because you didn t, and couldn t ever see yourself beating up a woman?
Yes. I couldn t.
Who started the rumour?
Someone I d barely been introduced to and he started that rumour based on the fact he d seen myself and a girlfriend having a row outside a cash machine. But that happens all the time. Usually, in the case of passionate relationships. Couples fight. In public or otherwise. But, rather pathetically, my way of dealing with this was to go to a lawyer. Then I confronted this person spreading the rumour and demanded #500 be given to Women s Aid. And a written apology to me and the other person involved. But that wasn t delivered because it dragged on and on and, classically, with me, I began to feel sorry for the guy who started the rumour. So I met him in a bar and said this ends here. I d made my point. But it did disturb me so much I felt like leaving Ireland, for good. I was so ashamed people would think that of me. So, as usual, I ploughed into work. A year before VIP. And that experience made me realise I no longer wanted to even drink with journalists. I fell out of love with these places, people, journalism itself.
Earlier you mentioned three or four people you are relatively close to , but do you have any close friends?
No. I m not huge into guys. I prefer the company of women. Even as friends. And I don t subscribe to the culture of male friends. I think of Jonathan Philbin Bowman when I think of this. He didn t have male friends. Likewise I ve pared down the people I phone regularly to just one person. I have lots of people I could invite to a party but I would regard myself as having only one really close friend. A year ago I dropped so many people because I realised I have to do so much fucking work on myself. And there is only one person I can really talk to about all this. My best friend. A woman. Vanessa. And she has been a great sounding board in this sense.
So why aren t you with that woman, Vanessa Clarke?
And ruin a good friendship! Are you kidding?
Is it true you once told a woman you won t settle until you build up a financial empire ?
Yes. And it continues. To a lesser degree.
But when will it stop? Will you be able to recognise that moment?
That s a question I continually ask myself. But I do know that right now, I don t feel I can rest on my laurels. Yet I have spent the last seven months re-focusing.
On what? Your relationship with Liz Bonnin?
Not specifically. On making me a better person. If that doesn t sound corny. And, though I am in a relationship, I m not focusing on her. I m focusing on me, in that relationship. I don t want to sound obsessive about this but I am trying to succeed, with myself, in the same sense I have with my career. That s my goal right now. But, as for Liz, I ve got a good friendship there and we re letting things develop.
Is there any danger that if TV Now flops it will undo your financial empire. After all, no matter how successful VIP is, its sucess will be eroded if the money made has to be ploughed back into TV Now to prevent its collapse.
TV Now sells 30,000 copies a week. I don t see that as a failure. Our goal was 40,000 but we didn t realise we d get so much money from advertising so it all balances out. Yet it s been a tough summer, especially as a result of the war waged on us by the RTE Guide. They ve stopped selling the magazine at half price but our case against them would be that it cost us so much outlay, in the beginning, simply to take them on. No magazine in Ireland advertises on television. And to compete with the Guide, because they are favourably treated by RTE, we had to create an ad and put it on TV, which cost a lot of money. And they ran that half-price promotion around the country for ten weeks which nearly put us out of business at the beginning.
They launched that the week of the launch of TV Now and we spoke to one of the companies who were briefed on this and they were told to deliberately target readers of TV Now. That company pulled out, saying it was completely anti-commercial, completely anti-ethical. So we are taking a case against the RTE Guide in terms of predatory pricing, a barrier against entry, abuse of its dominant position.
So what do you think of the RTE Guide as a magazine?
It has improved since the arrival of TV Now. Slightly. But it s edited by a committee and looks like it is. It s also designed by Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles! And it s still the turgid, 1950s magazine it always was. I had a contretemps with its editor, Heather Parsons, on Liveline. I hear she s a follower of Medjugore so, obviously, she believes in miracles and believes her magazine is good.
What would you say to critics who claim you have a profound lack of imagination in that everything you publish from VIP, through TV Now to your soon-to-be-launched VIP style magazine is a carbon copy of some British magazine?
I d agree with that. The production values are as good as their British counterparts but the idea, certainly, was born in London. VIP is an Irish Hello. TV Now is a TV Quick. And our new VIP Style magazine will cover the Irish and International fashion scene, beauty, health and, as such, probably appeal to female readers of hotpress. If you have any!
So what British magazine did you rip off for VIP Style?
This is all our own work, influenced by Vanity Fair, Elle, Cosmo. But are you trying to tell me hotpress didn t rip off Rolling Stone?
Why do you hate hotpress?
When I left Ireland in 1987, Niall Stokes was doing The Message, you had Sam Snort, Foul Play. Ten years later I returned and the same columns were still there. The same editor was there. So in the same way I regard Dave Fanning introducing Britney Spears as a bit of a joke, I don t think Niall Stokes, at his age, should be editing hotpress. As you grow up you put away childish things and likewise, I think, what is Dave Fanning doing at his age? There are so many young presenters in RTE dying to get a shot at what he does.
hotpress also is politically predictable. Left-Wing. And its rock coverage is achingly predictable. As for the new design, it s the same but squashed! Likewise, the new writers aren t the calibre of writers hotpress used to have. And though Niall did give breaks to some great writers along the way, the real point is that there were few other places in Ireland they could go to, at the time.
So must we always pat Niall Stokes on the head and thank him for keeping Ireland safe for rock n roll ? hotpress should be more revisionist. Say, let s really look at Phil Lynott, Rory Gallagher, U2 and not just be a cheer-leader for them all. Stop treating them as the sacred cows of Irish rock.
Is there any danger that if VIP Style fails and TV Now folds, your whole empire will collapse?
I don t think VIP Style will be a failure. But if it was all to go tomorrow what would I do? Get out of Ireland very quickly! Because I know a lot of pepole would like to see me fail!
Do you see yourself as a success?
That s what I ve been fucking trying to get across in this interview! No, I definitely am not a success. I will be a success when I have a happy family and some kids. That sounds wimpish and corny. But, at no point, in the last five years, have I woken up and said to myself amn t I fucking great? That s been the curse of the past five years.
You definitely are hyper-sensitive.
Really? So do you think anyone who s received the kind of stick I ve received would not feel slightly under-siege? And defensive? We ve established that people start vicious rumours about me. A forthnight doesn t go by without something appearing in Phoenix. Likewise, The Sunday Independent. It s a war of attrition. And all those cuttings are filled with this idea: John Ryan is arrogant, egotistical, had a row with someone. I haven t ever read even one positive piece about myself.
One could say tough shit if you now are the recipient of similar attacks. In other words, if it s a war of attrition John Ryan should stop bitching because he set down the battle lines!
I hear what you re saying. And I m not griping. But I do feel under-siege. And you re dead right. The truth is that I can give it but I certainly can t take it. No. Let me correct that. I can take it, to a degree, apart from that rumour about my being a girlfriend-beater, which nearly did make me fuck off because it was too painful to deal with. But do you think that every Sunday I m tortured by the stuff in the Sunday Independent? I m not. But I had hoped an intelligent person like yourself would come along, meet me and, rather than conclude at the end of a three hour interview, he s hypersensitive say he s every reason to be sensitive to criticism. Do I ask for my relationships to be put through the fucking papers every bloody week, to be part of that soap opera? To have references to Liz and Fiona (McShane) doing the same TV show and all this crap? No. That s what really pisses me off. You coming to me today, with so many of these rumours.
It s just that I ve heard all these rumours for five years. I never seem to get any slack. And that s not me being hyper-sensitive. I never get an easing up on stop attacking the bastard. I got a call from someone who said Phoenix are doing Pillars of Society on you and it doesn t sound very good. So, what s new? They ve been taking pot-shots at me for years. But, despite what they or anyone says, I am not some yuppie scum opportunist fuck who rides roughshod over people, is a tyrant and treats people like shit to get where he wants to get. I never have been. Never will be.