Belfast Telegraph

Gaybo's 'genius and goodness will live on'

Taoiseach among mourners at funeral of broadcaster

By Melanie Finn

Irish broadcaster Gay Byrne changed his audience's lives and his "legacy will live on", mourners at his funeral heard yesterday.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Irish president Michael D Higgins were among the huge crowds who joined Mr Byrne's wife Kathleen and family members at the service in Dublin yesterday.

The former Late Late Show presenter, a father of two, died on Monday aged 85 following a battle with cancer. Mourners gathered outside St Mary's Pro Cathedral in central Dublin from early morning to pay their final respects.

Gay's daughter Suzy O'Byrne thanked those who cared for her father during his illness, from the doctors to the catering staff at the Mater Hospital in Dublin.

She thanked her father, quoting the poet Brendan Kennelly who said you gave us words, ideas, music and song.

During the service Gay Byrne was described as a remarkable presence in Irish life - a choirmaster of the national conversation and a man at the centre of a loving family.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin was among clerics presiding at the service. He alluded to one of his predecessors, Archbishop Charles McQuaid, who decades ago raised concerns with the head of RTE at the time about one of Mr Byrne's then-risque shows.

In his eulogy, RTE's former director general Bob Collins paid tribute to his "profoundly human" colleague who put viewers at ease with his informal style on The Late Late Show.

Mr Collins said: "The audience knew instinctively that here was the genuine article. Here was one who spoke to and for them.

"Here was one who could and did change their lives.

Irish President Michael D Higgins, his wife Sabina and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar watch as the coffin of Gay Byrne, is carried into St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral
Irish President Michael D Higgins, his wife Sabina and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar watch as the coffin of Gay Byrne, is carried into St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral
RTE's Ryan Tubridy
Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson
Crowds outside the church

"He made a difference in our world and for that our society will be forever in his debt."

Mr Collins paid tribute to the star's resilience and talent, empathy and patience, and said his audiences knew he was genuine and spoke to and for them. "Gay showed us to ourselves and he had the ability to reach out to a vast audience by speaking to each person individually.

"I firmly believe that public service broadcasting at its best is our community's conversation with itself.

"If that is right then Gay Byrne is first among those we have to thank for the ability to talk and to listen to ourselves."

A host of well-known names attended the funeral, including RTE presenter Joe Duffy, who described it as a "very sad day".

Ryan Tubridy said that the Late Late Show special, which aired on Tuesday, was like a "national wake" for the people of Ireland who had responded in droves with their own favourite stories of Gay.

"It was about bringing Gay back into the room and reminding people just how extraordinary he was," he said. "While he's gone today, the story lives on, the legacy lives on."

RTE's Marty Morissey said Gay Byrne was "like a hero" and someone he had always respected and admired.

Broadcasters Dave Fanning, Ray D'Arcy and wife Jenny, and Miriam O'Callaghan were also in attendance. Miriam said: "It's a really sad day as we prepare to say our final goodbye to the greatest broadcaster in the world. Gaybo's brilliance, kindness and all round goodness and decency will never be forgotten. I will miss him greatly. His final act of genius was to ensure that it's a beautiful day for his final farewell."

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