Broadcasting legend Gay Byrne has died aged 85

by Padraig Conlon

RTÉ broadcaster Gay Byrne died today following a long illness.

The 85 year old Irish broadcasting legend passed away surrounded by his family.

Gay Byrne was born in Dublin on August 5, 1934, growing up on the South Circular Road and attending Synge Street CBS before going on to enjoy a career that last six decades.

He started his career as a newsreader and continuity announcer on Radio Éireann in 1958 before he moved to Granada Television in Manchester, where he worked on several shows.

Upon his return to Ireland he began work on a new programme called The Late Late Show in 1962 as presenter and producer.

Under his watch the programme would go to become the world’s longest running chat show.

Uncle Gaybo, as he was affectionately known, also presented a long-running radio show on RTÉ Radio 1, first known as The Gay Byrne Hour and then The Gay Byrne Show.

Gay Byrne presented his last daily radio show in 1998 and his final Late Late Show in May 1999.

In a statement released today his family said: “It is with sadness that Kathleen, Crona and Suzy wish to announce that their beloved Gay has died peacefully at home today, surrounded by his family.

“We wish to thank everybody for their love and support during Gay’s illness. Particularly the wonderful teams in the Mater Hospital, St Francis Hospice and the Irish Cancer Society”.

Lord Mayor Paul Mc Auliffe said a book of condolence will be open at the Mansion House on Dawson Street for those looking to pay their respects.

The Lord Mayor said: “I am opening a Book of Condolence to allow the people of Dublin to express their sympathies to the family of Gay Byrne.  Gay had a huge impact on Irish society and was more than just a broadcaster. 

“During his time as the host of the Late Late Show, he offered a platform for many varied and controversial issues and changed the social dialogue of the country.  Even after his retirement from the Late Late Show, he did not retire from public life and showed the true meaning of active retirement through his ongoing broadcasting and as Chairman of the Road Safety Authority. 

“On 11th May 1999, he received the Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin at the Mansion House and as a mark of respect, the Dublin flag on the Mansion House will be flown at half-mast.   

“I would like to offer my personal sympathies to his wife Kathleen Watkins and their daughters Suzy and Crona, his extended family, friends and colleagues.  He will be sadly missed.”

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