Gay Byrne created a 'non-judgmental space', President Higgins says
GAY Byrne created a "safe, non-judgmental space" for his Late Late Show guests, President Michael D Higgins told a special edition of The Late Late Show.
Mr Byrne (85) is to be laid to rest on Friday. He died on Monday following a long period of ill-health.
The president said the long-time Late Late Show presenter was "very fair and I think that was impressive".
He said the landmark Friday night show set the tone for Irish public debate.
"By Sunday and the weekend he had defined the conversation," Mr Higgins said.
"I recall meeting him at various theatre events and I always remember how kind he was and he'd always come and say something decent to you."
RTÉ broadcast a special edition of The Late Late Show on Tuesday night in tribute to Mr Byrne, who presented the programme for 37 years before his departure in 1999.
The programme heard from guests including Mr Byrne's Late Late Show successor Pat Kenny, musician Bob Geldof, comedian Tommy Tiernan and journalists Eamon Dunphy and Vincent Browne.
Mr Tiernan said he had only got to know the presenter in the last three years but would often meet him and his friend Harry Crosbie for pizza and whiskey.
"It was surreal sitting down talking to him because it's almost as if it's an out of body experience," he said.
"You're doing your work and part of you is thinking, 'Jesus! That's Gay Byrne'. "
Tuesday's programme ended with a collection of leading musicians, including John Sheahan of The Dubliners, Sharon Shannon, Mary Coughlan and Mary Black, performing The Parting Glass.
Mr Byrne's funeral will take place at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin at 11.45am on Friday.
The Funeral Mass will be led by Irish Jesuit Provincial Fr Leonard Moloney SJ.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin will lead the Prayers of Final Commendation.
The Archdiocese of Dublin warned any mourners wishing to attend the funeral that access to the Pro-Cathedral will be extremely limited with seating reserved for Mr Byrne's family and friends.