LEGENDARY broadcaster Gay Byrne has been described as the person who helped to modernise Ireland.
Tributes have been paid from across the country and beyond to the 85-year-old who passed away following a lengthy illness. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2017.
Byrne began working for RTÉ 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 RTÉ before returning home in the late 1960s as presenter and producer of The Late Late Show, which became the world’s longest-running chat show.
Byrne also presented a long-running radio show on RTÉ Radio 1. RTÉ colleague and Cork man John Creedon got the opportunity to stand in for him on air in the early 1990s.
“He was a ledge, absolutely,” said Creedon. “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.”
Byrne once officially opened the Cork Guinness Jazz Festival on The Late Late Show in 1982. The show was broadcast live from the Cork Opera House as part of the Cork 800 celebrations on October 25 that year.
Cork entertainer Billa O’Connell, who was part of that special show, told The Echo that Gay Byrne was always the utmost professional.
“The Cork Late Late Show was one of the best Late Late Shows of all time,” Billa said.
Meanwhile, Cork author Alice Taylor first appeared on both Byrne’s radio show and The Late Late Show in 1988.
“He was a super interviewer,” she said.
“He had his homework done. Whatever variation arose in the course of the conversation he went with it. He had a very inquiring mind.”
Head of RTÉ in Cork, Colm Crowley, said that Byrne was a great friend to all in RTÉ Cork.
“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 said.
RTÉ director-general and Cork woman Dee Forbes said: “Gay was an exceptional broadcaster whose unique and ground-breaking style contributed so much to the development of radio and television in this country.
“Ireland grew up under Gay Byrne, and we will never see his like again.”
Byrne was also an honorary member of the Irish Cancer Society.
CEO Averil Power said: “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.”