Belfast Telegraph

Irish president leads tributes to broadcaster Gay Byrne

Michael D Higgins said Gay Byrne challenged Irish society, and shone a light on the dark sides of Irish life.

Tributes have been paid to Gay Byrne (Julien Behal/PA)
Tributes have been paid to Gay Byrne (Julien Behal/PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins has led tributes to broadcaster Gay Byrne, who has died after a long illness.

Mr Higgins said that through his work on television and radio, he challenged Irish society, and shone a light on the dark sides of Irish life.

He added: “A man of great charisma, 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.”

Irish premier Leo Varadkar described Mr Byrne as the most influential broadcaster in the history of the State.

He tweeted: Gay Byrne was … a much-loved figure who changed Ireland for the better in so many ways.

“I knew him when he was Chairman of RSA (Road Safety Authority) Ireland and saw the effectiveness of his campaign against the needless tragedy of road deaths.

“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.”

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said: “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.”

Gay defined and shaped a modernising Ireland Labour leader Brendan Howlin

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said: “Truly an end of an era with the sad news of the passing of Gay Byrne.

“Gay defined and shaped a modernising Ireland.

“His history-making Late Late Show and daily radio programme followed the heartbeat of the nation.”

Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan said Mr Byrne spoke on behalf of the people in Ireland.

In a statement, she added: “The impact he had on Irish society, at a time of great social change, was phenomenal.

“Ireland is a better place thanks to him. My condolences to his family and friends.”

Seamus Dooley, Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said Mr Byrne was the father of public service broadcasting in Ireland.

“A broadcaster of courage, vision and boundless energy, Gay Byrne helped shape modern Ireland and used his talents to help create a more caring, compassionate and inclusive society,” he added.

“He was often infuriating, annoying and provocative, but Gay was never dull, and in his career he brought light, laughter and humanity to television and radio debates.

“Gay believed in the precepts of public service broadcasting and his passion for RTE was reflected in every aspect of his career: from his early radio career, to the Late Late Show, his pioneering morning radio programme to his wonderful Sunday music and musings on Lyric FM.”

PA

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