Gay Byrne helped lead national conversation, mourners told

Irish broadcasting giant Gay Byrne helped lead the national conversation, a priest told funeral mourners.

Family and friends of the celebrated RTE star gathered in Dublin to say a final farewell.

He died earlier in the week at the age of 85 after a long illness.

Gay Byrne funeral
Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern (left) and RTE’s Ryan Tubridy at the funeral (Brian Lawless/PA)

Catholic priest Fr Leonard Maloney said they were mourning the passing of an extraordinary man.

He recalled: “For as long as most of us can remember, Gay was a remarkable presence in Irish life – a consummate broadcaster and a veritable choirmaster of the national conversation.”

The former host of RTE’s popular Late Late Show and father-of-two had been undergoing treatment for cancer.

He died in Howth, a pretty seaside town in Co Dublin, surrounded by his family.

Gay Byrne funeral
Irish President Michael D Higgins arrives for the funeral of Gay Byrne in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

A host of well-known names were expected to attend his funeral mass in St Mary’s Pro Cathedral in Dublin city centre.

The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin will be among clerics presiding at the service.

Fr Maloney said Mr Byrne’s greatness lay in the intimacy of his family life, with his wife Kathleen, his children Crona and Suzy, his sons-in-law Philip and Ronan, his beloved grandchildren Cian, Sadhbh, Kate, Saoirse and Harry, and his sister Mary; and then in the richness of his life as a friend and a colleague.

He added: “It is right and fitting that such a great number would mourn his passing.”

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

Gay Byrne
Byrne was a familiar face on televisions across Ireland for decades (PA)

For a time he commuted between Dublin and the UK, working for the BBC and RTE, 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.

The much-loved host had also presented a regular radio show on RTE Radio 1, first known as The Gay Byrne Hour and then The Gay Byrne Show.

Fr Maloney said family, friends and colleagues were present, with countless well-wishers from throughout the country – especially from his beloved County Donegal in the north-west, and from further afield – travelling to mourn his death and celebrate his life.

He said: “We do so gently, however, as we know that he reached the fullness of years and lived a great and memorable life, both as a family man and as a public figure.

“Those who were closest to Gay knew him as a kind, generous and simple man who would counsel them always to give people the benefit of the doubt because, as he used to say: ‘You never know what they are going through.’

“He showed this same good grace and warmth wherever he went.

“The nurses and the cleaners in the hospital when he went in for treatment saw it. They felt befriended.”

His grandchildren also enjoyed his warmth.

They called him Ra Ra, Cian’s “monumental” effort as a baby to say “grandad”, which then stuck, the priest said.

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