Gay Byrne: same-sex marriage is ‘long overdue’

Byrne downplays Stephen Fry’s criticism of religion on The Meaning of Life show

Róisín Ingle with Gay Byrne in The Irish Times studio

Róisín Ingle with Gay Byrne in The Irish Times studio


Gay Byrne has said he supports marriage rights for gay couples and expects the forthcoming referendum on the issue to pass.

“Yes, I think it’s long overdue. You must remember, I lived through people walking out of the Late Late Show because we were discussing the possibility of decriminalising homosexuality,” he said on this week’s Roisin Meets podcast.

“I lived though all of that, so to find ourselves in this situation now, it would have been unimaginable to the people of Ireland, even probably 10 years ago.”

Byrne also downplayed Stephen Fry’s criticism of religion on his show The Meaning of Life, which has had millions of views online. “I wasn’t in the least shocked. I was amused and pleased and realised he was being passionate about something,” he said.

“He has this sonorous beautiful voice, and wonderful delivery, and what he had to say he said with passion and conviction and total belief, and he couldn’t wait to get it because he was so angry.

Podcast: Róisín Meets

“But so was Bob Geldof and so was Richard Branson and so was Maeve Binchy, lord rest her. And so they expressed their views in the same fashion, but not with the same panache and verve and strength.”

On his own spirituality, the veteran broadcaster said he “is looking for certainty and looking for something to hang on to. And I’ve been brainwashed with all the other lovely Catholic people in Ireland, with the Christian Brothers. You don’t come through 10 years of the Christian Brothers … without that making an impression on you.

“It requires a very, very, very strong will to say, I am finished with all that, I am casting it aside and I’ll have nothing further to do with it. I haven’t got to that stage yet,” he said.

The veteran broadcaster strongly criticised the Government and the European Union. “I’m exasperated by the fact that Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan… they’re telling everyone that we’re grand in Ireland, we’re grand! We’re paying off our debts and we’re grand, wonderful Irish people,” he said.

“They should be in Brussels beating down doors to try to alleviate their situation. My reaction the other day was, are these people living in Ireland, are they living in the same country I’m living in?”

Byrne, who began his 37-year run on the Late Late Show in 1962, expressed regret that he didn’t have more fun as a young man.

“We didn’t marry until we were in our 30s, and before I met Kathleen, I missed out on… as Larkin said about sex and the Beatles, which was far too late for me.”

“People of my generation would probably have that kind of regret, that we didn’t sow our wild oats, to put it genteelly. More sex, basically, and a bit more wild living.”