Gay Byrne has been honoured with the Ireland-US Council's Lifetime Achievement Award but was unable to attend the ceremony in Dublin Castle on Friday evening due to a broken wrist and chest infection.

His wife Kathleen Watkins and the couple's daughter Suzy O'Byrne received the award on his behalf from President Michael D Higgins. The Ireland-US Council builds business links between both countries.

Speaking to RTÉ News at Dublin Castle, Kathleen Watkins said: "I'm so sorry Gay can't be here today. He was hoping to be here, but in fact during the week a number of things all came together.

"He was in need of treatment for a little problem with the leg, and then he got a chest infection, and then he fell and broke his wrist so everything comes together." 

Gay Byrne was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016 and has been receiving treatment.

President Michael D Higgins said Gay Byrne is "celebrated as our greatest ever broadcaster" Photo: John Cooney

In his speech at Dublin Castle, President Higgins paid tribute to Gay Byrne's "long and distinguished broadcasting career".

"There can be no doubt that whenever broadcasting is discussed the name Gay Byrne is and will always be mentioned, for it is deeply embedded into the history of broadcasting in Ireland," President Higgins said. 

"His is a name that is, and will always be, held in affection across the country. His voice has, for so many years, been as integral to the rhythm of our lives as the passing of the seasons."

"Controversial, outspoken, and unafraid to break new ground, it has been said that, throughout his many decades on television and radio, Gay Byrne's role in the shaping and crafting of modern-day Ireland has been profound," President Higgins continued.

"Where others were reticent, afraid, or simply too cute, he took the lead." 

"Gay Byrne was, for many decades, the insightful and courageous voice of a changing Ireland in a changing world," President Higgins concluded.

"Today he is, quite deservedly, celebrated as our greatest ever broadcaster."