- 13 Nov 19
What was Gay Byrne really like? What were his views on the world? What did he think of RTÉ? How did he get on with his children? What was his attitude to sex?
A lot has been said about the man widely considered Ireland's greatest ever broadcaster since he died less than two weeks ago. But there is no better reference point than the man himself, speaking in a totally unguarded, open and honest way – as he did when he was interviewed by Hot Press editor Niall Stokes in 1986.
When the first part of that interview was published, it is no exaggeration to say that it set the nation reeling. Ireland’s iconic TV personality spoke with an honesty that stunned many about his personal life, being ripped off by Russell Murphy, his teenage years, sexuality, his morbid thoughts on the near collapse of Ireland Inc – and lots more besides. In that issue of Hot Press – in which Gay Byrne appeared on the front cover – we promised "Part 2 Next Issue”.
However, that promise was not fulfilled.
In the new issue of Hot Press, founder and editor Niall Stokes tells the full story behind what happened – and why the second part of the interview was canned.
"It was one of the most difficult editorial decisions Hot Press had ever been asked to make,” Niall Stokes says now. "We were conscious of the immediate loss of vital intelligence about Ireland’s best-known personality, and – more pressingly – the certain damage to the sales of the following issue of Hot Press.”
But the decision was taken, albeit with great reluctance. In the new issue of Hot Press, Niall Stokes explains why.
“I think it is important now to present the full picture,” he adds. “Hot Press had created something new, at the time, in the way interviews with politicians, paramilitaries and personalities alike were approached, giving them the kind of space that allowed the detail and nuance of what interviewees were saying to come through. But we had also broken new ground in doing longer, in-depth interviews with people involved in the media. We married both of these strands in the Gay Byrne interview – and it turned out to be genuinely extraordinary and fantastically revelatory encounter.”
But Part 2 had to be put into cold storage. As a result, much of what Gay had to say remained unheard. Some of that was published three years later around the release of the Gay Byrne autobiography, The Time of My Life (written with Deirdre Purcell), alongside elements of the first feature.
Now, however, in a special memorial tribute to the late, great Late Late host, running over 18 pages of Hot Press, for the first time ever, the full unexpurgated Gay Byrne Interview is published, complete with the original intro – and the tale of how and why Part Two was spiked.
"Much of what I said then in the intro chimes with the tributes paid to Gay, since his sad death last week,” Niall Stokes says. "But there are aspects of Gay Byrne, and his views, revealed in this interview, that I think go way beyond even the most heartfelt of valedictions.”
Indeed, in a climate where the future of RTÉ is under the microscope, his dissection of the organisation in Montrose back then will be read by many through gritted teeth.
From start to finish, it is a must-read for fans of Gay Byrne, and for anyone interested in Ireland – its past and its future.
The new Hot Press will be on the shelves from Thursday, November 14. You can order the issue online here: