Monday 18 November 2019

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Friday farewell for Gaybo

Thursday, 7th November, 2019 8:58am

The funeral of legendary broadcaster Gay Byrne will be broadcast live on RTÉ One this Friday. The funeral will take place at St Mary's Cathedral, Dublin on Friday 8 November at 12pm with coverage beginning at 11.30am.

It will be hosted by Bryan Dobson, with commentary by John Bowman and Mary Kennedy.

Tributes to the legendary broadcaster continued to pour in after an outpouring of grief following the news of his death on Monday at the age of 85 following an illness.

Producer, director, and Head of RTÉ Cork, Colm Crowley said: “Gay was an iconic figure in Irish broadcasting, for everyone, not just in Dublin, but Cork as well. I remember distinctly the last time I worked with him. We walked from here in RTÉ studios over to Cork Opera House, which would normally be a ten minute walk, but it took us nearly an hour because he was stopped so many times by people just wanting to shake his hand. And he would have time for everyone. I don’t know how he got through an average day, because every time he walked five yards, someone would stop him and say hello, and have a conversation with him.”

He continued: “When you look at the impact that two or three hours of television on a Saturday night had over the years, it’s very hard to come to terms with the kind of impact that one man’s vision could have for such a long time over such a broad population at a time when we were trying to figure out who we were as a country.

“He was the kind of figure that was constant in our lives for so long, and I suppose we see ourselves reflected in him. ‘The Late Late Show’ was the single thing that unified the nation back then for a few hours on a Saturday. I don’t think we’re ever going to see another Gay Byrne.”

The former ‘Late Late Show’ host was renowned not only for his professionalism, but for nurturing talent, and helping people starting out in the industry. Speaking about his generosity, Bibi Baskins, who worked with Gay in RTÉ, said: “He always had time for people starting off. He never saw anybody as a threat because nobody could threaten him.

“He was so excellent and unique. But he always made time to help you out and to give you any advice that you might need. My first real memory of him would have been shortly after I was offered a chat show of my own.

“It was an era when you went to work and paid your bills. I didn’t belong to the big earners in RTÉ. But I think Gay had a sense that this was going to be a bigger thing in my life than I realised in my innocence at the time. And I think that’s why he invited me onto ‘The Late Late Show’. That was a big honour for me. The dogs on the street want to be on ‘The Late Late Show’, and there I was.”

As the country reflects on a career spanning over 60 years, Gay has been credited with changing the face of media in Ireland, and having an unparalleled impact on Irish culture. A natural television personality, throughout his career he challenged his audience, tackling difficult subjects and giving a voice to the people.

Speaking about the legacy Gay left behind, Ms Baskins continued: “The way that he fearlessly opened up subjects had a bigger effect on the country than any legislation that was passed at the time. Just two weeks ago I was giving a talk, and one thing we discussed was ‘do journalist have free speech in Ireland?’, I said that free speech was started by Gay Byrne because he tackled all of these subjects that were taboo.”

A book of condolences was opened in City Hall this week in his memory with Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr John Sheehan saying: “I’m deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Gay Byrne. We open this book of condolences to give the people of Cork city the opportunity to express their sympathies on the loss of a true Irish icon.”

The book of condolences will be open in the Atrium in City Hall for the next two weeks, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

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