Tuesday 28 January 2020

'He was my friend and my mentor' - Pat Kenny

Pat Kenny took over as host of The Late Late Show from Gay Byrne in 1999 – and it took audiences “years” to accept him
Pat Kenny took over as host of The Late Late Show from Gay Byrne in 1999 – and it took audiences “years” to accept him

Newstalk's Pat Kenny, who was Gay Byrne's successor on The Late Late Show in 1999, described him as "the inventor of modern Irish radio and broadcasting".

He said a final goodbye to his "friend and mentor" at the Byrne family home in the Bailey in Howth on Sunday, where Gay died peacefully yesterday surrounded by all his loved ones.

"He had a voice that my generation of teenagers could identify with and at that time. Radio Eireann - as it was then - was very stuffy and very proper, and Gay brought an informality to radio that shocked some people and surprised others, but certainly it marked the beginning of a new era," said Kenny.

"Then, of course, I got to know him later on as a friend and mentor and one of the greatest honours of my broadcasting life was when I took over from him in 1999.

"I had been doing Kenny Live for the previous 11 years when he retired from The Late Late Show."

Taking over from Gay was "at once, the most exciting and intimidating thing", he told the Herald.

"I realised I wouldn't find a place quickly in the affection of the Late Late audience. It took a year or two before they said, 'Your man's OK, he can do it.'

"But there are people who never accepted me in the same way that there are people who would never accept Ryan (Tubridy)."

His only regret for his great friend was that he didn't have more time enjoying his leisure in his 80s after a lifetime of working hard.

"The thing that saddens me most is that he didn't have more years to enjoy his retirement. The fact that he became ill felt like a betrayal," he said.

"He always took great care of himself. He was a great cyclist and a great walker. It just feels so unfair that he has been taken from us."


Kenny added that Gay "broke all the taboos" and was not afraid to tackle tricky issues.

"He went against what was perceived to be the establishment consensus on a lot of things. Whether it was on radio talking about birth control or divorce, he gave a voice to people long before Liveline - to people whose views would never be heard ordinarily.

"It's a different landscape now. People maybe sometimes find it hard to grasp that what he did was so courageous, so outspoken.

"He kicked constantly against the goads in RTE. He pushed to get stuff on air when the more conservative instinct of the management and board would have been against it."

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