Gay Byrne (85) passes away - 'a country has lost an icon' says current 'Late Late' host Ryan Tubridy

Irish television and broadcasting legend Gay Byrne (85) has passed away, RTE has confirmed.

Monday, 4th November 2019, 2:56 pm
Updated Monday, 4th November 2019, 3:56 pm
Gay Byrne and wife of 55 years, Kathleen Watkins, pictured in Harvey's Point, Co. Donegal.

RTÉ Director-General, Dee Forbes, described Mr. Byrne as an "exceptional broadcaster" and declared "we will never see his like again".

“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.”

Mr. Byrne had been undergoing treatment for prostate cancer for the last two years.

The former Late Late Show host was born in Dublin in 1934 where he spent his childhood growing up on the South Circular Road.

Gay Byrne.

Mr. Byrne began working as a newsreader and continuity announcer on Radio Éireann in the late 1950s before moving to Granada Television in Manchester, where he worked on a variety of shows, interviewing acts including The Beatles.

For a time he commuted between Dublin and UK, working for both the BBC and RTÉ, but came back to Ireland full time in the late 1960s as presenter and producer of The Late Late Show.

The programme went on to become the world’s longest running chat show.

Mr. Byrne presented The Late Late Show from 1962 to 1999.

The Late Late Show is currently hosted by Ryan Tubridy who described Mr. Byrne as his "friend and mentor".

"It is with enormous and profound sadness that I heard of the passing of my friend and mentor, Gay Byrne," said Mr. Tubridy.

"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."

Mr. Byrne is survived by his wife Kathleen, their daughters Crona and Suzy, and their families.