Irish broadcasting legend Gay Byrne has passed away. RTE confirmed the news with a statement this afternoon.
He died peacefully surrounded by his family after a long illness. He was 85 years old.
Byrne presented The Late Late Show from 1962 until 1999, had a daily radio show on RTE 1, and later presented a weekly show on Lyric FM until 2017.
He was a unique voice in Irish broadcasting, a larger than life figure in the formative years of television. He regularly challenged the establishment view and was seen a force for modernity in a conservative and often backwards country.
Since his passing was confirmed, many of his former colleagues and fans have reacted with great sadness to the news.
RTE Director-General Dee Forbes said, "We are all greatly saddened by the passing of Gay Byrne who has been a household name in this country for so many years. 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.”
Liveline presenter Joe Duffy, who first became known as a reporter on Byrne's radio show, also reacted:
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.
He brightened and enlightened the lives of so many people through his broadcasting, his charm, wit, voice, and wonderful command of the English language. His broadcasts were a public joy, a personal pleasure and comfort to so many.Like so many I feel his passing as a deeply personal loss. He was a generous mentor and good friend to me, as he was to so many.
Above all, condolences to his wife Kathleen, his loving daughters Susie and Crona, his sons in law and his much loved grandchildren, who have been such a support to him in his very difficult illness.He worked hard all his life. He searched for meaning, and gave meaning to so many. His death is heartbreaking but I, like so many, am very thankful for his life.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Ryan Tubridy, who now presents The Late Late Show and the 9 o'clock slot on Radio 1 also offered his condolences. "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."
As befitting Byrne's contributions, President Higgins has also released a statement on his passing, as has the Taoiseach.
"Gay Byrne was someone who exuded warmth and presence, who was possessed of effortless wit, charm and who had a flair for broadcasting."
Statement by President Higgins on the death of Gay Byrne: https://t.co/P3WbkIDiqi
(Photo: RTÉ) pic.twitter.com/OJ22xYcttE
— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) November 4, 2019
Gay Byrne was the most influential broadcaster in the history of the State, a much-loved figure who changed Ireland for the better in so many ways. I knew him when he was Chairman of @RSAIreland and saw the effectiveness of his campaign against the needless tragedy of road deaths
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) November 4, 2019
— RTÉ (@rte) November 4, 2019
Across Ireland, others have been sharing their sadness at the news and stories about what made Gay Gay.
Very sad news about Gay Byrne. Canvassing for same sex marriage, a woman was unsure and I asked if I could leave a leaflet. This was the next one. I saw her face instantly change, "he's voting yes?" and that was that. pic.twitter.com/je07Ryq7yG
— Daithi (@daithigor) November 4, 2019
"End of an era" is a cliche but with the passing of Gay Byrne it is unavoidable. He was a huge figure in Irish life for 4 decades. He didn't just reflect change, he helped it along.
— Fintan O'Toole (@fotoole) November 4, 2019
So sad to hear of the passing of Gay Byrne, a man who has always been so kind to me over my my career.
Thank you for everything my friend, Rest In Peace. Love to Kathleen and all Gays family. 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/H4jFrjrgkV
— Paul McGrath (@Paulmcgrath5) November 4, 2019
Gay Byrne wasn’t a tv personality or an interviewer or a celebrity. He wasn’t even a talk show host. He was a force for change when no one else was willing/able to speak up. He was a game changer and the gold standard. There will never be anyone quite like him again. #RIPGayByrne
— Jarlath Regan (@Jarlath) November 4, 2019
Gay Byrne has passed away. Ah lads. My enduring memory of the type of man he was is the clip of him talking to the lady on the phone who just had the guards at her door to tell her her daughter had passed away in a motor accident. The unwavering humanity was incredible.
— Eoghan (@EoghanHMusic) November 4, 2019
Gay Byrne’s Late Late Show interview with Annie Murphy and in particular his sensitivity when interviewing the survivors of the Omagh bombing stays with me even 20 years after I saw them. Agree or disagree with him - he was a consummate broadcaster. #rollitthereroisin #gaybyrne https://t.co/3xz5HkjaPW
— Eric Down (@EricDownStylist) November 4, 2019
The great interviewers make interviewing look easy.
When I started as an arts presenter in radio with indie rock station Phantom in 06, my mum would point to #GayByrne & say, "Listen to him. Do it like that."
Gaybo might not have liked Nirvana.
But of course she was right.❤️🎤
— Nadine O'Regan (@NadineORegan) November 4, 2019
RIP Uncle Gaybo!