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Irish PM Leo Varadkar pays tribute as broadcaster Gay Byrne dies aged 85

Gay Byrne has died at the age of 85 (Picture: Getty Images)

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has paid tribute to broadcaster Gay Byrne.

Byrne, former host of The Late Late Show, has died at the age of 85. His death was confirmed by RTE.

In a tweet Varadkar praised the presenter for ‘changing Ireland for the better’.

He said: ‘Gay Byrne was the most influential broadcaster in the history of the State, a much-loved figure who changed Ireland for the better in so many ways. I knew him when he was Chairman of @RSAIreland and saw the effectiveness of his campaign against the needless tragedy of road deaths.

‘On radio and on television over so many decades “Uncle Gaybo” provided a voice for all those who had been silenced or were afraid to speak up, and helped us confront things that needed to be changed. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.’

Byrne had been ill for some time, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016. His family said in a statement: ‘It is with sadness that Kathleen, Crona and Suzy wish to announce that their beloved Gay has died peacefully at home today, surrounded by his family.

(Picture: Twitter)
(Picture: Twitter)

‘We wish to thank everybody for their love and support during Gay’s illness. Particularly the wonderful teams in the Mater Hospital, St Francis Hospice and the Irish Cancer Society.’

Byrne, affectionately referred to as Uncle Gaybo, was the first host of RTE’s The Late Late Show – the second longest running talk show in the world – taking up the mantle in 1962.

Gay presented the show for 37 years until he left in 1999, passing the role on to Pat Kenny. As well as hosting the weekly Friday programme, Byrne was at the helm of the Late Late Toy Show from its first edition in 1975, and started the tradition of wearing a jazzy festive jumper on the Christmas show.

The broadcaster was a former host of The Late Late Show (Picture: Independent News and Media/Getty Images)

Upon his final show, Byrne was given a Harley Davidson motorcycle by U2’s Bono and Larry Mullen Jr.

The Dublin-born star also presented The Gay Byrne Hour on RTE Radio 1 from 1973 until 1998.

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