I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Gay Byrne, the most influential broadcaster in the history of the State and a much-loved figure who changed Ireland for the better in so many ways.
Gay Byrne had a central place in Irish homes for many decades – on radio and on television – and the story of his remarkable contribution to Irish life is the story of how we changed and evolved as a society over the past 60 years. A consummate entertainer, he also provided a voice for all those who had been silenced or were afraid to speak up, and he forced us to confront things that needed to be challenged in our society.
As Chairman of the Road Safety Authority for almost a decade he spoke with feeling and understanding about the tragedy of road traffic deaths. When I was Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport I reappointed him to this role because I saw how his campaigning helped to save so many lives. I found him a wonderful public-spirited person who undertook his responsibilities at the RSA with the utmost seriousness and concern. He also spoke up for the whistle-blowers who exposed the abuse of the penalty points system and helped to bring about change.
For generations of Irish people he was ‘Uncle Gaybo’, a welcome presence in every home, someone who led change because he listened and he cared. We have lost someone who was a voice for change and a force for good.
My condolences to his wife, Kathleen Watkins, his daughters and grandchildren, his family and friends, and to all who mourn his passing.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anamdílis.