Ireland’s greatest broadcaster, a giant in the world of broadcasting and a true professional. Just some of the tributes that have been paid to Gay Byrne who died today at the age of 85.
As I write this I have just finished a radio programme and I wrote on Twitter that there is hardly an Irish person in the world who has sat behind a microphone or in front of a TV camera that hasn’t been influenced in some way by the professionalism and style of Gay Byrne. He really did make the Irish airwaves his own and set the bar that so many broadcasters could only aspire to.
In his tribute to the late braodcaster the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins said “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. Beyond compassion, which he had in abundance, he had a sense of what was just.”
Since the news broke earlier today the airwaves have been filled with tributes and there is no doubt that they will continue for a long time to come. Some of his former colleagues in RTÉ have been telling stories of how Gay mentored them, advised them and guided them. This kindness and genorosity are a big part of their memories of the iconic broadcaster.
It is certain that when the tributes are no more the legacy of Gay Byrne will go on and on. While his broadcasts brought him into conflict with authority on many occasions in the 60 years he was on air, it is true to say that without him there to guide the debates and keep check, the modern Ireland we have today might have taken a very different road.
Gay Byrne 1934 – 2019. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis.