Legendary broadcaster Gay Byrne has vowed to stay positive after revealing he must undergo tests to determine if prostate cancer has spread to his lower back. The 82-year-old, who hosted the world’s second longest-running TV talk program, the Late Late Show on RTE from 1962 to 1999, broke the news of his ordeal in a low-key announcement on his Lyric FM radio show on Sunday. “I shall not be with our listeners on this day next week. Have to go to hospital this week. They think they may have discovered a bit of cancer in the prostate and they think it may have moved up into my back,” Byrne said. “I've had the most wonderful, fantastic, robust, good health all my broadcasting life. It's my turn now...many, many people much worse off. Thank you for your good wishes.”
Later, he told the Irish Independent that he broadcast details of his suspected illness to avoid any rumors of talk. Although Byrne retired from the Late Late in 1999, it has continued under different presenters. Only America’s The Tonight Show has run for longer on NBC since 1954. “Retirement” for Byrne didn’t mean the end of his broadcasting career. He still presents the once a week radio show on Lyric FM and a television interview series, The Meaning of Life.
Broadcasting colleague Miriam O’Callaghan said, “Gay is the absolute role model for every broadcaster, but much more importantly he is the absolute role model for the most wonderful human being. He is surrounded by his family and will hopefully make a full recovery very soon.”
Friend and colleague Pat Kenny said Byrne continued to be “in great form” and was not expecting terribly disastrous news from his tests.
Under Byrne’s stewardship and presentation the Late Late became a forum where controversial topics such as the influence of the Catholic Church, contraception AIDS, homosexuality, abortion, divorce and other hitherto taboo subjects were discussed openly in Ireland. Byrne conducted scores of memorable interviews, including of Bishop Eamon Casey’s lover Annie Murphy. He once angered another bishop, Michael Browne, who called Byrne “a purveyor of filth” after he asked a woman what color nightie she wore on her wedding night, and she had replied that she believed she’d worn nothing.