- 04 Nov 19
The veteran broadcaster died peacefully at his home this afternoon.
RTÉ have announced that iconic broadcaster Gay Byrne has died, aged 85.
The news of his passing was announced by RTÉ this afternoon, November 4. A statement from his family noted that Byrne died peacefully at his home, having been ill for some time. He is survived by his wife Kathleen and their daughters, Crona and Suzy.
With a remarkable career that included hosting the Late Late Show for four decades, Byrne will be remembered among his colleagues and the public as a peerless professional in Irish broadcasting. Several notable figures across all sectors of Irish life have paid tribute to Byrne following the news of his death.
“Gay Byrne was a hugely important figure in Irish broadcasting and in Irish culture,” Hot Press editor, Niall Stokes, said. “During the 1970s, he turned The Late Late Show into the single most important forum in Irish broadcasting, attracting a huge viewership by successfully mixing light entertainment with an ability to cover the big issues of the day in a way that often took the national conversation to to a much better and healthier place. The show would never have stayed the course in the extraordinary way that it has without his commanding initial stewardship.
“His radio show, on RTE Radio One, was also ground-breaking, in particular giving voice to Irish women, and covering their stories in particular with openness and compassion. You got the feeling that Gay himself gradually became less conservative with the passage of time. But he could be opinionated too, as proved to be the case when I interviewed him for a Hot Press cover story, during the 1980s. He infamously offered the view in that interview that Ireland was ‘banjaxed’.
“He had a point. But there was so much else of substance in what proved to be a hugely revealing and controversial interview. We might have looked at the world in very different ways, but it was a genuine privilege to have known him and to have spent time with him. He will always be remembered as one of the greats of Irish broadcasting."
Taoiseach Leo Varadker described Byrne as "the most influential broadcaster in the history of the State", and found that he "changed Ireland for the better in so many ways."
Gay Byrne was the most influential broadcaster in the history of the State, a much-loved figure who changed Ireland for the better in so many ways. I knew him when he was Chairman of @RSAIreland and saw the effectiveness of his campaign against the needless tragedy of road deaths
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) November 4, 2019
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also noted that 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.
“His intellect and emotional intelligence was unparalleled and his ability to sensitively approach delicate and sometimes controversial issues set him apart from other presenters. Even after his official retirement, he continued to work on Lyric FM and presented the successful The Meaning of Life programme, further illustrating his love for the broadcasting medium and his great breadth of knowledge and interests."
Fintan O'Toole has described his passing as the "end of an era".
"End of an era" is a cliche but with the passing of Gay Byrne it is unavoidable. He was a huge figure in Irish life for 4 decades. He didn't just reflect change, he helped it along.
— Fintan O'Toole (@fotoole) November 4, 2019
Stefanie Preissner remembered his "rare greatness that made other people shine brighter in his presence".
Gay Byrne was just great.
A rare greatness that made other people shine brighter in his presence, that turned people into the best of themselves, that made them grow in the light of his warmth. “Enjoy every minute” he said. What a motto, what a man. #gaybyrne #rip pic.twitter.com/ER9vyy04ld
— Stefanie Preissner (@StefPreissner) November 4, 2019
Piers Morgan has described Byrne as "Ireland's greatest broadcaster."
RIP Gay Byrne, 85.
Ireland's greatest broadcaster.
A master of his craft & a charming, brilliant, hugely influential (in a good way) man.
Very sad news. pic.twitter.com/1rKWRQyNMw
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) November 4, 2019
Ryan Tubridy also paid tribute to the iconic Late Late Show host.
"He was the master, a once off and the likes of which we will never see again"
- Ryan Tubridy
Gay Byrne 1934 - 2019 pic.twitter.com/8gj6MS6FuX
— The Late Late Show (@RTELateLateShow) November 4, 2019