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Eileen Fox, who unwittingly rocked 1960s Ireland, has passed away

Gay Byrne has led tributes to the woman behind the ‘Bishop and the nightie’ incident.

A WOMAN WHO unwittingly sparked one of the best-known controversies in Irish television history - which came to be known simply as the ‘Bishop and the Nightie’ incident’ – has died.

The family of Eileen Fox confirmed her death last week, and broadcasters Joe Duffy and Gay Byrne paid tribute to her in this afternoon’s edition of Liveline.

The controversy

Eileen and her husband Richard appeared on the Late Late Show in 1966 and took part in a quiz item for married couples.

When asked by host Byrne what colour nightie she had worn on the night of their honeymoon, she replied that she hadn’t worn any.

Laughter followed, and the show continued as normal.

However, the Bishop of Clonfert, Dr. Thomas Ryan, was less than amused and phoned The Sunday Press to announce that he planned to denounce the item in a sermon at Loughrea Cathedral.

late1 Source: RTÉ Stills Library

The paper ran with the frontpage “Bishop slates TV act” and the country exploded into a frenzy of controversy which would keep tongues wagging and newspaper columns filled for months.

“Lord rest her, I never saw her from that day to this but it truly was one of the great moments of showbiz,” Byrne said this afternoon.

The former Late Late host said the coverage had continued, particularly in the Irish Times “for about two months, till it just died away”.

“It was very very strong for a while. It wasn’t a joke.

The couple themselves weren’t bothered by the coverage, Byrne said:

“The only reaction we had from them was that they were highly amused by the whole thing.

“I never heard of any bad repercussions on her or the family.”

Byrne issued a statement saying it hadn’t been the show’s intention to embarrass viewers as the fallout continued. He said it was a late-night show designed for adult viewers.

Audio of the 1966 Late Late exchange can be heard via the RTÉ Archive. Video footage has not survived.

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