The unforgettable Gay Byrne

Very sad to hear that Gay Byrne, the legendary presenter, has passed away. Everybody in Ireland watched Gay on The Late Late Show on a Friday night. He was an incredible entertainer, but above and beyond that he pushed forward important social issues for wider debate, from abortion to divorce to sexuality. It's no exaggeration to say he played a major role in helping to shape modern Ireland.

Richard Branson and Gay Byrne

He invited me on for an interview when I was quite young and, despite him being the most influential person in Ireland, I was not overly familiar with his show. Being dyslexic I am apt to forget names from time to time, especially if I have lots of interviews in short succession. Three quarters through the show, Gay asked me: ‘What have you got written on your hand?’ I sheepishly turned it over to reveal I had 'Gay Byrne' penned on my skin. He was crestfallen!

Richard Branson and Gay Byrne

I had the pleasure of meeting Gay on numerous other occasions. He later interviewed me for his show The Meaning of Life and we had a fascinating discussion about religion; we had differing views but a fascinating debate. Off-air, he brought up the name-on-hand incident and we shared a joke about it.

Richard Branson and Gay Byrne

Despite my mishap, Gay is truly unforgettable. He was an integral part of Irish life and I wish all the best to his loved ones.

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