Tributes paid to legendary broadcaster Gay Byrne

Tributes paid to legendary broadcaster Gay Byrne
The Late Late show at the Opera House in Cork on October 25 1982 ... a Guinness Cork Jazz Festival Special. Pictured:Gay Byrne and Donal Crosbie

Tributes have been paid to broadcaster Gay Byrne who has passed away following a lengthy illness.

The 85-year-old was diagnosed with cancer in 2017.

The Dublin native began working for RTE in the early 1950s, before moving to Granada Television in Manchester.

He spent some time going between Dublin and the UK working for both the BBC and RTE before he returned home in the late 1960’s as presenter and producer of The Late Late Show, which became the world's longest running chat show.

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.

He officially opened the Cork Guinness Jazz Festival on RTÉ's 'The Late Late Show' in 1982.

The show was broadcast live from the Cork Opera House as part of the Cork 800 celebrations on the 25th of October that year.

Cork entertainer Billa O’Connell told the Echo that Gay Byrne was always the utmost professional, and he had “the pleasure of doing a few Late Late’s with him and he was a pure gentleman.” 

He also took part in that Late Late Show in Cork in 1982.

“The Cork Late Late Show was one of the best Late Late Shows of all time,” Billa said.

RTÉ Broadcaster John Creedon told the Echo that he met Gay Byrne recently at an event in Dublin, where he and his wife were beckoned over by Gay and his wife Kathleen to be told they were going to write to John to tell him how much they loved his programme.

“If my mother heard Gay Byrne saying that about her son she would not believe it, you have no idea how much that actually means,” John said.

“He was a ledge, absolutely. You have to acknowledge he was a colossus really, not just in broadcasting but in Irish society.

“I would say if you were to ask who was responsible for the modernisation of Ireland, he’s probably the most likely candidate.

“Over the last 30 years I’ve been with RTÉ he was very supportive,” he added.

Cork author Alice Taylor was first on Gay Byrne's radio show and the Late Late Show in 1988. 

"He was a super interviewer," she said, "the secret was that Gay asked the questions people sitting at home wanted to know the answers to.

"He had his homework done. Whatever variation arose n the course of the conversation he went with it. He had a very inquiring mind.

"He was such a lovely man, The Gay on the Late Late was the same man off-camera," Alice added.

Head of RTÉ in Cork, Colm Crowley said that Gay Byrne was a great friend to all in RTÉ Cork.

“I remember walking with him on Patrick Street at 11 o’clock in the morning. He literally couldn’t get more than five yards. We walked from the RTÉ Cork studios to the Opera House where we were doing some shooting in 2005 and it took I’d say 45 minutes to get over there," Mr. Crowley said.

"He had time for everybody. He knew that value of being decent and kind to the viewers because ultimately that’s what it was all about. He was quintessentially the example for everyone that followed in terms of the respect he treated the audience with,” he added.

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 Byrne was also an honorary member of the Irish Cancer Society, and its CEO Averil Power has paid tribute to him.

"We are so sad to hear about Gay’s passing. He was an extraordinary man who had an enormously positive impact on Irish society.

“Throughout his broadcasting career, he tackled difficult issues with great sensitivity and compassion. He opened our minds, challenged our views and won our hearts.

“He was also extremely generous with his time to the issue of cancer and how it affects so many Irish people.

“In recent years, he spoke openly and honestly about his cancer diagnosis and the realities of treatment. In doing so he helped so many others affected by cancer to have those conversations with their loved ones.” 

Fianna Fáil Leader and Cork South Central TD Micheál Martin has also paid tribute to the much loved and renowned broadcaster.

Deputy Martin said: “Gay Byrne has left an indelible mark, not only on Irish broadcasting, but on Irish society as a whole. Through his radio programme and tv shows, including his 37 years as host of The Late Late Show, Gay was a feature in Irish homes the length and breadth of the country.

“Gay was a true public servant and accepted the Chairmanship of the Road Safety Authority in 2006. This decision gave the organisation a huge boost and Gay became the face and voice of many campaigns, which no doubt saved the lives of pedestrians, motorcyclists and drivers across the country.

“Gay Byrne was a rare treasure who touched the lives, not only of his family and friends, but the hundreds of thousands of people who welcomed him into their lives and their homes on the radio and tv."

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