Gay Byrne will be Ireland's next president if he runs -- looks more and more likely that he will - VIDEO
By: Niall O'Dowd | Published Wednesday, August 24, 2011, 2:42 PM | Updated Friday, September 9, 2011, 10:27 PM
The news that Ireland's most famous broadcaster, Gay Byrne, will likely run for president of Ireland finally injects some real stature into the race.
Byrne is quite simply Ireland's greatest broadcaster, but much more, a champion of the little guy and girl and their concerns in Irish society.
His voice would be badly needed in a country where the divisions between have and have-nots have never been more evident.
Sure he is now 77, an age when most people are considering the quiet places and withdrawal from public life, but Byrne has never fitted that mold.
He has expressed his interest in running and will decide this weekend by all accounts.
My money is on him running.
If he does I think he will easily win.
His impact on Irish society is hard to imagine in these days of multiple media voices and outlets.
Way back in 1986 or so I was invited on 'The Late Late show' in Dublin to talk about my new magazine Irish America and about illegal Irish emigration - yes, it was happening even then.
It was like an invitation from Mount Olympus. Gay Byrne the host was the Johnny Carson of his day but much more. He tackled the kind of topics Irish people were only trying to get to grips with.
A well known politician remarked in the 1970s that there was no sex in Ireland before television.
He was referring to 'The Late Late Show' which was the first to broach topics such as divorce, naughty sex issues such as honeymoon quizzes which drove the clergy mad and deep social issues that were only surfacing in Ireland at the time.
My mother rarely asserted herself in my house, with four sons and three daughters but on Saturday night, despite her sons thirsting for "Match of the Day" soccer highlights on the BBC she insisted on "The Late Late Show" and woe betide anyone who switched the channel
Byrne was brave and fearless and his show was incredibly popular, especially among women
It was so popular that my mother wouldn't watch me on the show that night long ago she was so nervous. Gay Byrne was simply her God and her son being on his program was an incredible source of pride.
To the day she died she put it right up there with introducing her to President Bill Clinton which I did a few years later.
The following day after being on the show I remember going to a race meeting and perfect strangers coming up by the dozen and shaking my hand . "The Late Late Show" was Ireland's community gathering where, before cable and myriad stations simply everyone listen in.
After he retired from "The Late Late", Byrne hosted a radio show which became a voice for the forgotten in Ireland, where housewives poured out their problems with drunken husbands, errant children and much more.
If Byrne runs he will draw on that massive residue of support from ordinary people he has retained after all these years.
It is hard to see anyone else in the field defeating him.
If he runs we are almost certainly looking at President Byrne. Ireland could do an awful lot worse.