Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has paid tribute to Ryan Tubridy’s "considerable contribution to broadcasting” after he announced that he will step down as The Late Late Show host this summer.
But Mr Varadkar declined to say whether it was now time for a woman at the helm of the long-running chat show, or to speculate on who might succeed to the Friday night hot seat.
"I just wanted to pay tribute to Ryan Tubridy for 14 years of service presenting the Late Late Show. I know he's not retiring, and he's going to continue to do his radio show. And I'm sure the Late Show will continue as well.
"But I think the Late Late Show is more than just a talk show. It also performed an important public service role as well, particularly during the pandemic, when it was a very useful means to get information to people," he said at Howard University in Washington DC.
The Late Late had also been significant in raising a lot of money for charity and various causes, he noted. "So really I just wanted to recognise that very considerable contribution to broadcasting.
"The Late Late Show has always been part of our culture."
Asked if a woman should now get the job as a reflection of the changing culture, Mr Varadkar said it was not a question for today. "I think today is the day to to pay tribute to Ryan and to recognise his work."
Earlier today Ryan Tubridy had stunned his RTÉ colleagues by announcing that he will step down as presenter of The Late Late Show this summer.
Opening up about his decision to leave the show after 14 years, the presenter told RTÉ’s Claire Byrne: “I'm ready. I'm so comfortable with the decision. It wasn't easy, but it feels really good.”
And he confirmed that he won’t be returning to host the Late Late Toy Show, telling listeners:
“No. No, not going to happen. I’ve had my fun and it was glorious. Like that Toy Show is magic, there's magic in the air; you’d want to see behind the scenes of that show, it's beautiful. That'll be hard to say goodbye to but there will be no return. I know when it's time to say goodbye and like the song says it is indeed, ‘time to say goodbye’.”
Mr Tubridy will continue to present his morning radio show on RTÉ Radio One.
His final Late Late Show will take place on Friday, May 26.
In an earlier statement, Mr Tubridy said it had been “a privilege to host the national institution that is the Late Late Show for the last 14 years”.
He thanked “the tremendous teams of producers, researchers, crew and executives who have done the hard work to keep the show on the road over the years”.
"Many have become dear friends,” Mr Tubridy, who turns 50 in May, said.
He made particular mention of his time at the helm of the show during the Covid-19 crisis.
"During the pandemic particularly, the viewing figures bear testament to the fact that many families across Ireland tuned in as we tried to make sense of it all. In a time of massive disruption and fragmentation of media and fake news, trust matters and I hope The Late Late Show offered that over the years.”
The Dubliner said he will especially miss “the annual chaos” of the toy show. “While millions of viewers got to see the thousands of children who made it onto the live show, I saw lots more hopeful singers, messers, dancers and musicians at auditions throughout the country,” he said.
"Suffice to say, I am incredibly positive about and hopeful for the next generation and the contribution they will make to this country.”
Tubridy is the third full-time presenter of the programme, following in the footsteps of Gay Byrne and Pat Kenny.
Speaking on the Today with Claire Byrne programme, Tubridy said that part of presenting the Late Late is that “you belong to a lot of people” and while that is “part of the joys of us when you're the guy” it is “always a little trickier” for his family.
“I think another five, 10 years of that would be punishment for them and I'm ready, I'm ready. I'm so comfortable with the decision. It wasn't easy, but it feels really good,” he added.
Sounding emotional, he recounted some of the “standout people” he interviewed since taking over the show in 2009.
“Vicky Phelan, Adam King and Saoirse Ruane and more recently Charlie Bird. People who have move the country and been selfless. Catherine Corless comes to mind. A gentle, kind historian who changed the world through persistence and dignity and diligence,” he said.
On his future plans, he said he is looking forward to being able to “annoy” his daughters on Friday nights and he wants to do documentaries about some of his favourites topics including “books, history, politics, Ireland, museums, [and] travel”.
He also ruled out writing an autobiography, saying: “I've often said I'm a private person in a public job. You can’t suddenly turn around and say, ‘buy my book’.”
However, he gave a rare insight into what it’s like dealing with ‘stars’ on the show.
"There's a credo.. the bigger the star the smaller the ego and conversely, the smaller the star the bigger the ego,” he said.
Tubridy also expressed his gratitude to the Irish public for their support and generous donations to the Late Late Toy Show and Covid-19 appeals which raised over €30 million for good causes in total.
RTÉ has not yet made any decision regarding the next presenter of the Late Late Show. An announcement will be made later in the summer.
RTÉ Director-General, Dee Forbes thanked Mr Tubridy for his “enormous commitment to the Late Late Show during the seven years I have had the privilege to work with him”.
"The Late Late Show is a TV phenomenon at home and abroad which continues to hold a special place in Irish life and Ryan can take enormous credit for that. He had big shoes to fill, but he has made the show his own over the past 14 years.
"The transformation of the Late Late Toy Show into a national event celebrating Irish children and the most popular television programme in Ireland every year is testament to his talents as a broadcaster and his ability to create a unique connection with children and audiences all over Ireland, and beyond. There are so many great memories and special moments to look back on, and more to come, which we will rightly celebrate in the months ahead."
RTÉ's Director of Content, Jim Jennings said: "Ryan has been a fantastic custodian of the Late Late Show for the last fourteen years and I know that our audiences will join me in thanking him for his years of hard work and dedication in delivering really stand out shows on Friday nights. Having worked closely with Ryan over the years, I know, first hand, his passion for The Late Late Show. I look forward to continuing our work with Ryan on his radio show and discussing future projects with him."
Tubridy, who turned 50 in May, took over from former host Pat Kenny in May 2009.
As a 16-year-old he appeared on the RTÉ's Scratch Saturday’ where he reviewed a U2 book.
He would go on to work as a reporter for the Today with Pat Kenny show and became a presenter on Morning Glory, The Sunday Show and The Full Irish.
In 2004 he was given his own TV chat show, Tubridy Tonight, and in 2006 he started the Tubridy Show each weekday morning on RTÉ Radio 1.
In 2009 he took over as host of The Late Late Show from Pat Kenny who presented the chat show for the previous ten years.