Belfast Telegraph

Gay Byrne: Eamonn Holmes and Leo Varadkar lead tributes to 'icon' after death of Irish broadcaster

Irish broadcaster Gay Byrne has died at the age of 85 after a long illness, RTE said (Brian Lawless/PA)
Irish broadcaster Gay Byrne has died at the age of 85 after a long illness, RTE said (Brian Lawless/PA)

Tributes have been paid to legendary Irish broadcaster Gay Byrne following his death aged 85.

RTE director-general Dee Forbes led tributes to Mr Byrne, who had been undergoing treatment for prostate cancer for more than two years.

"We are all greatly saddened by the passing of Gay Byrne who has been a household name in this country for so many years," she 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.

"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."

Mr Byrne was described as a man "of great charisma" by Ireland's president Michael D Higgins.

Mr Higgins added: "Gay Byrne was someone who exuded warmth and presence, who was possessed of effortless wit, charm and who had a flair for broadcasting.

"This was combined with an innate gentleness as a person, professionalism and humour.

"Through his work in radio and on television he challenged Irish society, and shone a light not only on the bright but also the dark sides of Irish life.

"In doing so, he became one of the most familiar and distinctive voices of our times, helping shape our conscience, our self-image, and our idea of who we might be.

"Beyond compassion, which he had in abundance, he had a sense of what was just."

Broadcaster Ryan Tubridy - who now presents the Late, Late Show - said Ireland had lost an icon.

"It is with enormous and profound sadness that I heard of the passing of my friend and mentor, Gay Byrne," he added.

"He was the master, a once-off and the likes of which we will never see again.

"I watched him as a child, worked alongside him as a young man and he guided me as I grew older, and I will forever be indebted to him.

"We in RTE have lost a friend, a family have lost a father and a husband and the country has lost an icon."

Fianna Fail Leader Micheal Martin said Gay had left an "indelible mark" across Irish society.

"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," he said.

"His intellect and emotional intelligence was unparalleled and his ability to sensitively approach delicate and sometimes controversial issues set him apart from other presenters.

"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."

North Belfast TV and radio presenter Eamonn Holmes said "bye to the greatest Irish talkshow legend" on Twitter.

Sharing a picture of himself and Mr Byrne from 2001 on Twitter, he said the former Late Late show host was "the broadcaster we all wanted to be".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described Mr Byrne as the "most influential" broadcaster in the state's history.

"A much-loved figure who changed Ireland for the better in so many ways," he tweeted.

"I knew him when he was Chairman of @RSAIreland and saw the effectiveness of his campaign against the needless tragedy of road deaths."

He added: "On radio and on television over so many decades 'Uncle Gaybo' provided a voice for all those who had been silenced or were afraid to speak up, and helped us confront things that needed to be changed. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis (may his faithful soul be at God's right hand)."

Gay is survived by his wife Kathleen, their daughters Crona and Suzy, and their families.

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