Gay Byrne named head of Road Safety Authority


Former RTÉpresenter Gay Byrne has been named the new head of the Government's Road Safety Authority.

Minister for Transport Martin Cullen said he was "delighted" at the appointment of Mr Byrne as chairman.

"Gay is a serious person for a serious job. He has earned the recognition and respect of the Irish people," Mr Cullen said.

Gay Byrne, new chairman of the Road Safety Authority
Gay Byrne, new chairman of the Road Safety Authority

"Gay Byrne's career has been characterised by courageousness and professionalism, skills that are needed as we seek to bring about a sea change in driver behaviour. His appointment underlines the seriousness that this Government is giving to road safety and to bringing an end to carnage on our roads."

The Road Safety Authority is to be established later this year. It will be merged with the National Safety Council and the staff will increase from a team of 11 to more than 300.

Mr Cullen named current acting chief executive of the NSC Noel Brett as new chief executive of the RSA. He said he would be finalising the remainder of the board next week.

Former National Safety Council chairman Eddie Shaw resigned in frustration in November at the lack of progress on road safety.

Mr Byrne was adamant today that he would "walk away" from the job if confronted by a "solid wall of bureaucracy".

"But we are starting with the wind behind us because everybody in Ireland wants something to be done about this problem.

"It is an outrage at the moment that there are upwards of 450,000 people driving on the roads of Ireland who are not entitled to do so. That testers' mess has to be cleared up." The broadcaster also wants action on speed cameras and roadside breath tests.

The Minister said the RSA would lead the thrust to improve road safety. The body will be involved in devising strategies, advising Government, driver-testing, road safety research and promoting road safety in general.

It will report to a Cabinet sub-committee comprising the Ministers for Transport, Justice, Finance, Health and Education.

Minister of State for Transport Pat "The Cope" Gallagher told a road safety seminar in Ennis, Co Clare, last week that it would be difficult to achieve the Government target of keeping the number of road deaths down to below 400 this year.

Mr Byrne (71) presented the Late Late Showon RTÉ television from 1962 until 1999, as well as presenting a two-hour morning radio show on RTÉ from 1979 to 1999. A keen biker, he was given a Harley Davidson by Bono on his last night hosting the Late Late Show. The bike was later auctioned for charity.