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Gay Byrne

Gay Byrne was an iconic figure in Irish broadcasting. Born in 1934, Byrne became a household name as the host of The Late Late Show, which he helmed for an impressive 37-year tenure from 1962 to 1999. Affectionately known as “Uncle Gay” or “Gaybo,” he became a fixture in Irish homes, providing a platform for discussions of controversial topics like contraception, homosexuality, and divorce, thus shaping the evolving social landscape of Ireland.

Indeed, it was famously said by politician, Oliver J. Flanagan that, “there was no sex in Ireland until Teilifís Éireann went on the air”. In the 1960’s, Bishop of Galway Michael Browne called Byrne “a purveyor of filth” after he asked a woman what colour nightie she wore on her wedding night and she had replied that she believed she’d worn nothing.

Byrne is remembered for conducting a career-ending interview with politician Pádraig Flynn and a notoriously antagonistic interview with then Bishop of Galway Eamon Casey’s lover Annie Murphy.

Byrne’s career extended beyond The Late Late Show. He also hosted The Gay Byrne Hour, later expanded to The Gay Byrne Show, on RTÉ Radio 1 from 1973 to 1998. Even after retiring from his long-running radio and television roles, Byrne continued to captivate audiences with programmes like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, The Meaning of Life, and For One Night Only.

Despite his immense popularity, Byrne declined to run in the 2011 Irish presidential election, opting to remain in the realm of entertainment rather than politics. His decision was met with both disappointment and respect from the public. In his later years, Byrne continued to make his mark through programmes like The Meaning of Life, delving into existential questions with public figures. He also faced health challenges, including hearing loss and a battle with prostate cancer, but remained a beloved figure until his passing in 2019.

His influence was profound, earning him the title of “the most influential radio and television man in the history of the Irish State” by The Irish Times in 2010. His ability to engage with guests and tackle taboo subjects endeared him to audiences, making him a household name across Ireland.

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  • more of a ‘force for good’

  • Less of a ‘force for good’


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