Ar dtús báire ba mhaith liom, ar mo shon féin agus ar son Pháirtí Fhianna Fáil, comhbhrón a dhéanamh le Kathleen, Suzy, Crona agus clann Gay Byrne ar ócáid a bháis. Thug sé spás agus deis do chosmhuintir na tíre a gcuid tuairimí a phlé. Bhí tionchar faoi leith aige ar dhul chun cinn na tíre. Bhí a fhios aige go raibh an tír ag athrú agus chabhraigh sé leis an athrú sin. Bhí sé freagrach as athruithe bunúsacha a tharla in Éirinn ó na 1960í amach. D'oibrigh sé go dian dícheallach Domhnach is dálach agus thuig sé tábhacht na seirbhíse craoltóireachta poiblí. Ba laoch agus ceannródaí na seirbhíse sin é. Go bunúsach, b'fhear mór teaghlaigh é. Fuair sé neart ón gcaidreamh sin.
Gay Byrne was an iconic Irish institution who left an indelible imprint not only on Irish broadcasting, but on Irish society itself. Through his radio programmes, television shows and his 37 years as host of "The Late Late Show", he influenced and had a profound impact on the evolution of modern Ireland. He was part and parcel of every Irish home for decades. His warmth resonated with so many people. His intellect and emotional intelligence were unparalleled and his ability to sensitively approach delicate and sometime controversial issues set him apart from other presenters. What really separated him was his capacity to listen while doing interviews; he was a great listener as well as contributor to interviews and debates.
Gay Byrne became internationally renowned because of his capacity and ability to debate highly sensitive issues in a way that allowed conversations to take place and for playing a huge role in persuading people to allow significant change to occur in what was then a conservative Ireland. On reflection, some of his programmes were, perhaps, our original citizens' assembly because they gave the people of Ireland an opportunity to discuss these issues. Contraception, divorce, abortion and LGBTQ issues all got their first real airings on "The Late Late Show". These shows were rarely missed and set the agenda for public discourse every week.
He was many things to many people. He loved the arts, theatre and entertainment. Above all, he spoke about the importance of educating young people so that they could progress. He also helped to jump-start the careers of many singers, comedians, broadcasters and musicians. He was a true public servant and, as the Taoiseach said, he accepted the chairmanship of the Road Safety Authority in 2006. I often thought that appointment was a brave move on the part of the then Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, because there was simply no place to hide from Gay Byrne when, as chairman of that authority, he wished to hold Government to account. He became the face and voice of many campaigns which I have no doubt saved the lives of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers across the country.
Gay Byrne was a rare national treasure who touched the lives not only of his own family and friends but those of the hundreds of thousands of people who welcomed him into their homes on radio and television. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.