Gay Byrne, Who Tackled Taboos as Ireland’s TV Host, Dies at 85

A revered figure, he mixed serious discussion on matters like sex abuse and contraception with lighter fare on his long-running “Late Late Show.”

Comments: 8

  1. What a charming public personality for Ireland. The US could use such a person in these times.

  2. Growing up in Ireland in the '60s and '70s, a highlight of our week was being allowed to stay up for the Late Late Show. Even in the convent boarding high school I attended, this was the one show we sometimes got to watch. I left in 1979 and am struck by how much Gay Byrne managed to accomplish in subsequent years. His witty, insightful, down-to-earth and reassuring voice is still sharp in my mind. Thank you Gay Byrne.

  3. He was an amazing man. Your article presents him very well. Irish society could easily have become as divided and partisan as the US is today over many issues as the liberal movements confronted the deeply conservative religious. Mr. Byrne helped avoid that by regularly bringing people from both sides onto his show and letting people see that they were all just sincere, normal people like the rest of us, that they were sharing values and beliefs that were not just sincere but also rational, and that by listening to each other, we could find a way forward. Where the US lets matters like this be decided by the partisan Supreme Court, in Ireland we have referenda, and perhaps the critical part of this process is the need to decide what wording and what changes would be acceptable to the majority of people and not to appalling to others. It is a good formula. Mr. Byrne played a huge role in enabling us to talk civilly to each other about the difficult questions. And, because he was both conservative and liberal, and seemed to sincerely understand both, his opinion was often given a lot of weight by people who were unsure. Indeed, he could possibly have done a good job as a one-member Supreme Court, such was his understanding of where the will of the people lay. May he rest in peace.

  4. I grew up listening & watching Gay Byrne. Every week day he had his radio show where everyone could call or write in. I remember one hilarious call with an American bachelor in Florida who was looking for an Irish wife. Gay gently told the man that Irish women in 1990 may not be as conservative as the man thought they were and that he may be biting off more than he could chew! Whether you loved or disliked Gay he was an artist at what he did in Ireland. One of a kind. Irish people all over the world will miss Gay.

  5. Thanks. Wish I’d known about him before. We need more like him - right here in the USA.

  6. I came of age in the '80s in Dublin and think Gay Byrne was just as your article describes. As a supercilious, dismissive teenager, I didn't hold him in very high regard but, from my present vantage point, living in London in fear of Brexit and Trumpism, I have a new appreciation of his gifts and his gift to Ireland in introducing, exploring and debating social issues rationally, unthreateningly, gently. I'm sure some rose-tinted elements have crept into my re-evaluation of him and his role - I have been very surprised by my own strength of feeling at hearing of his death but, when I consider not only how far my country has come in its reappraisal of social norms but how it has accomplished these changes, I feel very proud. With the benefit of hindsight I appreciate Gay Byrne's gift for introducing new topics and ideas to the country in such a way that they could be honestly and earnestly explored in a multi-faceted way, usually without any particular exponent being condemned for their views or the necessity for a particular outlook to 'win'. I think that this approach has been very influential in the shaping of referenda and citizens' assemblies which mean that Ireland has achieved a lot of relatively radical changes in quite a condensed period which have been broadly accepted by the populace without fracturing social cohesion. Perhaps Gay only reflected our national character but, I think in some ways he shaped it, and has left us a legacy. RIP Gaybo.

  7. No matter whether they loved him or hated him, they always watched him; he was inescapable; he is part of our communal memory in Ireland. He wasn't perfect; a lot of people never forgave him for the way he treated Annie Murphy. But still, I remember when I was a child, he would always have Nuala O Faolain and Nell McCafferty on together by some miraculous chance. In my innocence, used to think it was because they were great fun and personalities in their own right (which they were). Later of course I realized they were a couple and part of me wonders now if it was Gaybo at it again, stirring the pot.

  8. Thank you for a super article on Gay Byrne. He was a gifted broadcaster who spoke beautifully - perfect diction & delivery. He sure managed to get almost all of Ireland talk about forbidden topics in a deeply conservative, almost backward in modern thinking, economically poor Ireland. An amazing man. He sure did not need a university degree. Broadcasting was in his DNA. May he rest in peace.