Veteran Irish broadcaster Gay Byrne has died aged 85, his longtime employer RTÉ announced on Monday.
The network said Byrne, who hosted “The Late Late Show” for almost four decades and presented a morning show on Irish radio until 1999, had been ill “for some time.“
In a statement to RTÉ, 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”.
“The Late Late Show” became one of the world’s longest-running talk shows after Byrne became its first host in 1962.
Earning the nickname “Uncle Gaybo,” he became a familiar voice on the radio in 1973 on RTÉ Radio 1’s “The Gay Byrne Show” before stepping back from both programs in 1999. After scaling back his broadcasting duties, Byrne became Chairman of Ireland’s Road Safety Authority.
“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,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Twitter, also praising “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,” Varadkar said.
Irish President Michael D. Higgins 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,” Higgins said.