Bono pays tribute to Gay Byrne during emotional edition of The Late Late Show
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Bono pays tribute to Gay Byrne during emotional edition of The Late Late Show

BONO TOOK time out of U2’s busy touring schedule to pay tribute to Gay Byrne as part of a star-studded tribute edition of The Late Late Show.

Calling in to the show from Auckland where the band are currently touring, Bono shared some of his fondest memories of Uncle Gaybo from his days as host of The Late Late Show.

“If you didn’t get on his show you didn’t feel you existed,” he said.

“When U2 got dropped from what would have been our first appearance on the show I was irate,” he said.

“I got the bus all the way out to Howth to explain to Gay that the Late Late Show was making a big mistake.

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“I had Ally with me and asked the driver where Gay Byrne lived and he replied, ‘I’ll drop you there’.

“So I went in and knocked on his front door… And I’m very pleased to report he was not there.”

Bono also revisited the night he and Larry Mullen gave Uncle Gay a Harley Davidson motorcycle on the presenter’s last night as host of The Late Late Show in 1999.

"It seems like the wrong show to talk about the bike because I think Kathleen thought we were trying to kill him,” he joked.

"The band talked Gay down eventually from riding the Harley Davidson because he really loved the bike and he wouldn’t get it off it there for a while.

"He was a real enthusiast for his Harley," Bono added.

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"And eventually when I met him again, I said are you still on the Harley and he said, ‘No. Kathleen’s talked me down from that. She thinks I’m a danger to myself and others’ but it was a nice thing to have Gay join the Hell’s Angels, don’t you think?"

Bono’s reminisces came as part of a star-studded night of tributes with Bob Geldof, Pat Kenny, President Michael D Higgins, Andrea Corr and Tommy Tiernan among those in attendance.

Geldof recalled how, Gay defended him from a booing audience during his first appearance on the Late Late Show back in 1977.

“He [Gay] represented everything that needed to be done away with and changed. I thought it would be the only time I’d be on television so everything had to be vented and thrown out.

“I was going on about how we’re all living in a terrible, immoral and corrupt country… But half way through my rant I realised that I was the one being spun out. The crowd started booing and telling me to shut up.

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“Gay then turned to the audience and said ‘some of you are probably hating this, but your parents probably hated Elvis. Some of you probably remember your parents hating the Rolling Stones too, but these guys are going to be a very big band.”

President Higgins also spoke of his respect and admiration for Byrne and his distinctive and decidedly modern broadcasting style.

“Between 1955 and 1960 a quarter of a million people had emigrated, but what many people forget was that they were coming and going and bringing aspects of modernity back into the country.

“Gay was aware what was happening and gave people a safe, non- judgmental space where they could think in a modern way,” he said.

Comedian Tommy Tiernan spoke of the “out of body experience” he had while talking to the Irish TV legend.

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“I think Gay was very attracted to people who he thought were mavericks and outsiders. He had a great grá for Bob Geldof and a great gra for Sinead O’Connor.

"I remember at the IFTA awards when Bob was receiving a life time achievement awards, Gay said in a very emotional way, ‘Bob Geldof, you did it your way and nobody can take that away from you’.”

A statement was also read out from Irish actor Gabriel Byrne who celebrated the late presenter’s warmth and kindness.

“Gay was absolutely unselfish in his encouragement, not just towards me, but towards so many other people starting out their careers,” he said.

“Over the years, I’ve done all the major chat shows in the US and in Britain and spoke to all the famous hosts, but Gay Byrne was the best one.”

The tributes came as part of a two-hour special hosted by current Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy, who also paid his respects to his “great friend” and “magnificent mentor”.