Prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916

Prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916
The Signatories of the Proclamation

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Members of the Third Dáil - Alfred Byrne

The Balbriggan Boy Scouts with Alfie Byrne, Dublin Lord Mayor 1930-1939

Douglas Hyde and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, 28 April, 1938

Alfred Byrne (17 March 1882 – 13 March 1956), also known as Alfie Byrne, was an Irish nationalist politician, who served as both an MP in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and as a Teachta Dála in Dáil Éireann. As Lord Mayor of Dublin he was known as the "shaking hand of Dublin".

He was born in Dublin in 1882. He was the son of a docker, who died when Alfred was only thirteen years old. Byrne worked as a theatre programme seller and barman before buying his own pub, The Vernon in Talbot Street, Dublin. He entered politics at the age of twenty-seven, being elected to Dublin Corporation for North Dock ward with a large majority.

Byrne became an Alderman on Dublin Corporation in 1914. He was a member of the Dublin Port and Docks Board, a significant position for a politician from the Dublin Harbour constituency. In the records of the Oireachtas his occupation is given as company director.

He was elected MP for Dublin Harbour in a by-election on 1 October 1915, as an Irish Parliamentary Party candidate. He was defeated by Philip Shanahan of Sinn Féin, in the 1918 general election.

Byrne's constituent Philip Shanahan (the man who defeated him in 1918) had legal problems following the Easter Rising. Shanahan consulted the lawyer and Nationalist politician Timothy Healy. Byrne attended this conference between Shanahan and his Parliamentary colleague. Healy commented:

"I had with me to-day a solicitor with his client, a Dublin publican named Phil Shanahan, whose licence is being opposed, and whose house was closed by the military because he was in Jacob's during Easter week. I was astonished at the type of man - about 40 years of age, jolly and respectable. He said he "rose out" to have a "crack at the English" and seemed not at all concerned at the question of success or failure. He was a Tipperary hurler in the old days. For such a man to join the Rebellion and sacrifice the splendid trade he enjoyed makes one think there are disinterested Nationalists to be found. I thought a publican was the last man in the world to join a rising! Alfred Byrne, M. P., was with him, and is bitter against the Party. I think I can save Shanahan's property."
The rapid decline of the Irish Parliamentary Party and the rise of Sinn Féin, even in the formerly immensely safe Dublin Harbour constituency, followed the Rising. Byrne continued his political career in independent Ireland. He was elected as an independent TD for the Dublin Mid constituency in the election to the Third Dáil in 1922. In the Fourth to Sixth Dála (1923–1928) he represented Dublin North. He was an elected a member of Seanad Éireann, for a six year term, in 1928. He vacated his Dáil seat on 4 December 1928. He resigned from the Seanad on 10 December 1931. Byrne returned to the Dáil in 1932 and sat there until his death in 1956. He represented Dublin North (1932–1937) and Dublin North East (1937–1956).

He was elected the Lord Mayor an unprecedented nine times without a break from 1930 until 1939. He also served as the Lord Mayor in 1954 and 1955. The by-election caused by his death, was won by his son Patrick Byrne. Two other sons Alfred P. Byrne and Thomas Byrne were also TDs for various Dublin constituencies.

Alfie Byrne died in Dublin in March 1956 and his funeral attracted thousands, especially from the ranks of the poor in the inner city and docklands whose cause he championed through a long and colourful career.

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