GAY BYRNE, the host of RTÉ’s The Late Late Show for almost four decades and one of Ireland's most popular broadcasters has died aged 85.
His death was announced by RTÉ this afternoon, with RTÉ One interrupting its schedule to break the news of his passing.
Byrne had been ill for some time and reportedly passed away "peacefully" next to family members who released the following 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.
"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".
President Michael D. Higgins also released a statement, declaring that Byrne had become "one of the most familiar and distinctive voices of our times."
"Having begun his career in broadcasting with Radio Éireann in 1958, he retained a love of radio as a medium. With the arrival of television he went on to become one of the most recognisable faces of Irish broadcasting, hosting one of the world’s longest running chat shows - The Late Late Show", he said.
"A man of great charisma, Gay Byrne was someone who exuded warmth and presence, who was possessed of effortless wit, charm and who had a flair for broadcasting. This was combined with an innate gentleness as a person, professionalism and humour.
"Through his work in radio and on television he challenged Irish society, and shone a light not only on the bright but also the dark sides of Irish life.
"In doing so, he became one of the most familiar and distinctive voices of our times, helping shape our conscience, our self-image, and our idea of who we might be. Beyond compassion, which he had in abundance, he had a sense of what was just."
RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes said in a statement that "we will never see his like again."
"We are all greatly saddened by the passing of Gay Byrne who has been a household name in this country for so many years. Gay was an exceptional broadcaster whose unique and ground-breaking style contributed so much to the development of radio and television in this country," he added.
Byrne grew up in Dublin and began his broadcasting career in the capital during the late 1950s.
He then moved to Granada Television in Manchester where he worked on current affairs and entertainment shows, interviewing acts including The Beatles.
In 1967, he returned to Ireland full-time to host The Late Late Show before hosting other shows including The Rose of Tralee and the Calor Housewife of the Year competition, as well as hosting the weekday Gay Byrne Show on RTÉ radio for almost three decades.