Irish broadcasting legend Gay Byrne, famous for his long-running “The Late Late Show”, has died aged 85.
RTÉ Director-General, Dee Forbes, today paid tribute to Mr. Byrne: “We are all greatly saddened by the passing of Gay Byrne who has been a household name in this country for so many years. Gay was an exceptional broadcaster whose unique and ground-breaking style contributed so much to the development of radio and television in this country. Gay’s journalistic legacy is as colossal as the man himself – he not only defined generations, but he deftly arbitrated the growth and development of a nation. Ireland grew up under Gay Byrne, and we will never see his like again. My deepest sympathies to Kathleen and his family.”
Gay rose to international fame in the late 1960’s as presenter and producer of The Late Late Show. The programme went on to become the world’s longest running chat show. His broadcasting career began a decade earlier though as a newsreader and continuity announcer on Radio Éireann before moving to Granada Television in Manchester, where he worked on a variety of shows, interviewing acts including The Beatles. He also commuted between Dublin and UK, working for both the BBC and RTÉ.
Gay Byrne also presented a long-running radio show on RTÉ Radio 1, first known as The Gay Byrne Hour and then The Gay Byrne Show. The show had a close relationship with its listeners, many of whom wrote to or phoned Gay to comment on the issues of the day, and with their own stories. He won a Jacob’s Award for the programme in 1976.
The UK’s National Union of Journalists added in a statement; “We in the NUJ were proud of his membership of the union – he remained a fully paid up member throughout his life. He encountered opposition when he first set about joining the union and there were those who viewed him as an entertainer rather than a serious journalist. Gaybo was a man for all seasons and made a fine contribution to print journalism as a newspaper columnist.
“The best way to salute Gay’s legacy is to protect and promote public service broadcasting. He was, above all else, a public service broadcaster to the core.”
Gay is survived by his wife Kathleen, their daughters Crona and Suzy, and their families.