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Ryan to the rescue after Cullen pulls out

RTE star Ryan Tubridy saved the day when he agreed to launch the Dublin Book Festival at the last minute -- after Minister Martin Cullen couldn't attend the event.

The Late Late Show host explained how he was busy working on his first book, JFK in Ireland, at the National Library on Wednesday afternoon, when he was approached by one of the organisers and asked to lend his services.

Self-confessed young fogey Ryan admitted he couldn't have turned them down after they were left without a celebrity guest, explaining that it was a case of "a nerd in need" for him. The book lover was unable to stay around for the entire event, however, as he had a prior commitment that evening.

"I was just drafted in for the photographs, I couldn't stay for the speech," he said.

A representative for the event told the Herald how they were delighted when they discovered that Tubridy was in the building at the time.

They could not shed any light as to why Mr Cullen, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, was unable to make it to the 5.30pm launch, revealing only that he had a conflicting work commitment at the same time.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Emer Costello was also on hand for the launch, telling literary lovers that promoting Dublin as a creative and cultural city was important to economic renewal.

This year's programme will see over 100 Irish authors, poets and journalists featured in the festival, which runs from March 6 to 8.

Among the events set to take place at City Hall on Dame Street over the course of the three days are several children's readings and workshops, readings from emerging writers of prose and poetry and a number of talks from established writers.

Given that Tubridy is currently in the process of researching his first historical manuscript -- which has been commissioned by Harper Collins as part of a €100,000 two-book deal -- the TV star said he was looking forward to paying the event a visit.

The broadcaster has been spending every spare minute working on the book, which is expected to be published later this year.

Ryan claims he has a personal interest in the topic of JFK's historical visit to Ireland as one of his relatives was instrumental in persuading President Kennedy to travel in June 1963.