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Wednesday, 12 May, 1999, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
Dublin honours talk show king
gay byrne
Gay Byrne: Leaving The Late Late Show
Thousands turned out to cheer broadcaster Gay Byrne, the man credited with bringing sex to Ireland, when he was made a Freeman of Dublin.

Byrne, who will soon be leaving state broadcaster RTE's The Late Late Show, was honoured at a special ceremony in the Irish capital on Tuesday night.

The 64-year-old has been at the helm of The Late Late Show for thirty seven years, and until recently he also had a weekday morning show on national radio.

He is credited with helping change the face of Irish culture, although his Friday night show sometimes caused controversy.

Dubliners turned out in their thousands to witness 'Gaybo' join the ranks of the Freemen of Dublin, a list which includes President Clinton, South African President Nelson Mandela and the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

'Liberating effect'

Dublin's Lord Mayor, Senator Joe Doyle, welcomed Byrne, saying: "You had a liberating effect that was astonishing and refreshing - and sometimes shocking.

"And as [conservative politician] Oliver J. Flanagan had once complained, there was no sex in Ireland before the Late Late Show."

Byrne told the crowd: "I think this is a huge honour indeed and I never expected it would happen. I follow in absolute superb footsteps and I am in illustrious company."

He has decided to take a six month break from radio and TV, though he has not ruled out a return to broadcasting.

Outrage from the clergy

Highlights of his career include a Late Late Show item which featured a married couple being asked what they wore on their wedding night in bed together.

When the wife answered that she wore nothing, there was an outcry led by an Irish bishop who complained of the show promoting loose morals.

Now there is speculation as to who will replace Gay Byrne in the Late Late Show hot seat, though some feel he is irreplaceable.

Northern Ireland comedian Patrick Kielty - who co-hosted the UK National Lottery show on BBC One last year - is the leading candidate for the position but there are reports that he has already turned down the role.

Byrne's rival chat show host, Pat Kenny, has said he would like to transfer his Saturday night programme, Kenny Live, to Byrne's Friday night slot on RTE One.

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