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The greatest showman Gay Byrne's most memorable Late Late Show moments


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Gay Byrne

Gay Byrne

Gay Byrne

Esther McCarthy looks back at the TV segments that rocked the nation.

1. Chairgate

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Siubhan Maloney and Gay on the Late Late with the chair that would end up at the centre of a court case

Siubhan Maloney and Gay on the Late Late with the chair that would end up at the centre of a court case

Siubhan Maloney and Gay on the Late Late with the chair that would end up at the centre of a court case

The Sunday World was at the centre of one of the most memorable moments in the Late Late's history. In 1997, Donegal woman Siubhan Maloney appeared on the show's popular antiques restoration contest and declared she had done 99 per cent of the work herself. The restoration work she referred to involved an antique regency armchair, and she went on to win the competition.

Days later, antique shop owner Joshua Duffy gave an interview to this newspaper claiming he had carried out the work, and that he was "gutted" not to have been acknowledged as he had been promised.

The case went all the way to court, where Duffy was vindicated.

2. Gay's interview with Annie Murphy

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Gay Byrne interviews Annie Murphy

Gay Byrne interviews Annie Murphy

Gay Byrne interviews Annie Murphy

One of Gay's most memorable interviews was with Annie Murphy - and not always for the right reasons. Murphy was making her first major Irish TV appearance following revelations that high-profile Bishop Eamon Casey had fathered the American woman's child, Peter, many years before.

Following a sometimes terse interview, Gay wrapped by saying: "If your son is half as good a man as his father, he won't be doing too badly." But Annie Murphy was having the last word. "I'm not so bad myself," she replied before walking off set.

3. Bishop and the Nightie

It seems amusing now, but way back in 1966 Ireland was a very different place, and a lighthearted quiz ended up scandalising the nation and being condemned from the pulpit.

It started as a fun item where Gay picked a married couple from the audience and asked them questions about each other out of earshot.

Richard and Eileen Fox took part. One of the questions was about the colour of Eileen's nightie on their honeymoon. Richard thought it was transparent - and Eileen later said she wasn't wearing any.

The Bishop of Clonfert in Co. Galway, Thomas Ryan, blasted the show from the pulpit and said he was disgusted by it, no doubt boosting ratings figures for the following week.

4. Terry Keane reveals her affair with Charles Haughey

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Terry Keane reveals her affair with Charles Haughey

Terry Keane reveals her affair with Charles Haughey

Terry Keane reveals her affair with Charles Haughey

It was the worst-kept secret in media circles, but when newspaper columnist Terry Keane appeared on the Late Late and revealed her affair with Charlie Haughey in 1999, the nation took a collective gasp.

"He was larger than life, he was very attractive. Strong, clever, entertaining, amusing, irreverent - wonderful," she said of the country's former leader. She later said that she regretted the appearance.

5. Marian Finucane in the host's chair

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Marian Finucane takes to the host’s chair

Marian Finucane takes to the host’s chair

Marian Finucane takes to the host’s chair

Marian Finucane and Gay made women across the country cheer when she appeared on the Late Late in 1980.

During an item on women in the media, the two discussed a report given to the RTE Authority which said she would never get to host the show. Gay stood up and gave her his seat, prompting guest Nell McCafferty to dramatically declare: "At last, free at last, thank God we're free at last."

6. Gay shows Ireland how to use a condom

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Gay shows Ireland how to use a condom

Gay shows Ireland how to use a condom

Gay shows Ireland how to use a condom

In 1987, during an item on the AIDs crisis and during a lively debate with panellists and the audience about the safe use of condoms, Gay showed one to the nation.

Contraception had been legalised several years earlier, but they were not widely available and many in Irish society objected to the Late Late item.

"That is the dreaded object. People falling in a swoon all over Ireland at the moment, looking at that," said Gay, as only Gay could, as he took the condom out of its wrapper.

He then linked to an animated screen demonstration of their use by saying: "If you pardon the expression, Roisín, would you roll it there please?" to nervous laughter from the audience.

7. Boyzone's First Appearance

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Boyzone's first appearance on The Late Late Show

Boyzone's first appearance on The Late Late Show

Boyzone's first appearance on The Late Late Show

They swore to Gay that they were going to become Ireland's answer to Take That - but the newly-formed Boyzone were a little green around the gills when they made their very first Late Late Show appearance and busted some moves to a backing track, one bare-chested and in dungarees, to the bemusement of the host and the audience.

"They've no talent whatsoever, they don't write music and they don't play instruments," said a disapproving and unimpressed Gaybo. It was a cringeworthy performance, but Boyzone ended up having the last laugh.

8. U2 ride into studio on a Harley

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Generous goodbye: U2 frontman Bono giving Gay a present of a Harley Davidson during his last Late Late Show in 1999

Generous goodbye: U2 frontman Bono giving Gay a present of a Harley Davidson during his last Late Late Show in 1999

Generous goodbye: U2 frontman Bono giving Gay a present of a Harley Davidson during his last Late Late Show in 1999

Gay's last show was always going to be a dramatic and emotional one, but Bono and Larry Mullen rode into the studio on a Harley Davidson - a surprise gift for the host. "Do you remember about three or four years ago on Sutton Cross, I was sitting on my Harley looking very cool?" said Larry of a previous encounter with Gay. "A car pulled up beside me and the window went down and you stuck your head out and said: 'I love those bikes.' So Gay, this is a gift from us to you." A dumbstruck Gay said "I don't believe it" before getting on the Harley.

9. Padraig Flynn's notorious interview

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Padraig Flynn’s notorious interview

Padraig Flynn’s notorious interview

Padraig Flynn’s notorious interview

The Mayo politician alienated many when he appeared on the show in 1999 to talk about his "charmed" political life. On questioning from Gay, Flynn said he earned about £100,000 after taxes and ran homes in Dublin, Brussels and Castlebar.

"Try it sometime" he said to the audience of running three houses. "Do you need three houses?" probed Gay. "Well, I have to live somewhere," Flynn replied.

Sunday World


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