Belfast Telegraph

RTE broadcaster Gay Byrne dies aged 85

Legendary Irish broadcaster Gay Byrne has died, aged 85.

The former Late Late Show presenter had been undergoing treatment for prostate cancer for more than two years. RTE confirmed the sad news today.

RTE's Director-General, Dee Forbes, led tributes to Mr. Byrne and said she was deeply saddened by the news.

"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,” she said.

Mr Byrne revealed he had cancer on air while presenting Lyric FM in November 2016.

At the time, he told listeners "They think they may have discovered a bit of cancer in the prostate and they think it may have moved up into my back.

"I've had the most wonderful, fantastic, robust, good health all my broadcasting life. It's my turn now ... Many, many people [are] much worse off. Thank you for your good wishes."

Battling on: Gay with wife Kathleen
Battling on: Gay with wife Kathleen

Born in Dublin in 1934, Gay Byrne grew up on the South Circular Road.

He started work as a newsreader and continuity announcer on Radio Éireann in the late 1950's before moving to Granada Television in Manchester, where he worked on a variety of shows, interviewing acts including The Beatles.

For a time he commuted between Dublin and UK, working for both the BBC and RTÉ, but came back to Ireland full time in the late 1960’s as presenter and producer of The Late Late Show. He worked on the programme for 37 years.

While he officially retired in 1999, he continued presenting programmes including The Meaning of Life even after his cancer diagnosis.

Earlier this year, he took a step back from broadcasting as his treatment continued.

He is undoubtedly Ireland's greatest broadcaster and yesterday some of his RTE colleagues paid tribute to him.

Ryan Tubridy said; "It is with enormous and profound  sadness that I heard of the passing of my friend and mentor, Gay Byrne. 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 RTÉ have lost a friend, a family have lost a father and a husband and the country has lost an icon. May he rest in peace."

Joe Duffy added; "More so than any one individual, Gay Byrne represented modern Ireland  and through his daily broadcasting on radio and television he propelled this country and its people forward. In no other country can one individual claim to have had such a positive impact on an entire nation over such a long period. Ireland is a better country thanks to Gay’s lengthy career behind the microphone at the centre of public discourse."

Throughout his illness, Byrne received letters and messages of support from listeners. He said this was of incredible solace to him.

Gerry Adams and Gay Byrne
Gerry Adams and Gay Byrne

"The kindness of people is absolutely astounding," he said in 2018. "People have been extraordinarily kind."

The father-of-two told earlier this year about the toll the gruelling treatment took on him.

He said in an interview with Ireland's Own: "If I had known ill-health during my life I would probably have been better able to cope with being sick.

"The treatment is very heavy, and it sets you back on your heels."

Earlier this year Gay Byrne was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award but was unable to attend the ceremony due to a broken wrist and chest infection.

When Byrne received the award in June, President Michael D Higgins spoke of the affection viewers have for him.

"His is a name that is, and will always be, held in affection across the country. His voice has, for so many years, been as integral to the rhythm of our lives as the passing of the seasons," President Higgins said.

"Controversial, outspoken, and unafraid to break new ground, it has been said that, throughout his many decades on television and radio, Gay Byrne's role in the shaping and crafting of modern-day Ireland has been profound," President Higgins continued.

"Where others were reticent, afraid, or simply too cute, he took the lead. Gay Byrne was, for many decades, the insightful and courageous voice of a changing Ireland in a changing world. Today he is, quite deservedly, celebrated as our greatest ever broadcaster."

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

Irish Independent

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