Byrne, Alfred (‘Alfie’) (1882–1956), politician, was born 17 March 1882 at 36 Seville Place, Dublin, eldest of seven children of Thomas Byrne, dockyard engineer, and Fanny Byrne (née Dowman). Educated at the CBS, Seville Place, he left school aged 13 and took a job selling theatre programmes. He served his time as a bicycle-wheel maker and became a successful racing cyclist before becoming a barman and eventually (1909) owner of the Verdon Bar, 37 Talbot St. While a barman, he became interested in union and political activities, joining the Dublin port and docks board in 1909. Elected councillor of the North Dublin Dock Ward (1911), he became an alderman of Dublin (1913) and was elected Irish parliamentary party MP for Dublin Harbour in the 1915 by-election, holding it till his defeat by Phil Shanahan of Sinn Féin in 1918. He was an active MP, taking part in the commons committee that advocated the increase of old-age pensions, and campaigning vociferously against conscription. He spent 1916 and his subsequent commons career lobbying on behalf of those interned after the rising. Though at odds with the insurgents, he sought to convince Westminster that the rising emanated from the mass discontent of the Dublin poor. Following appeals from many of those interned, Michael Collins (qv) included, he visited Frongoch in July 1916. Disillusioned with the IPP and adapting to the changing demands of his constituents, he was the only member of the IPP to attend the funeral of Thomas Ashe (qv). Standing as an independent supporting the treaty, he was elected for Dublin Mid in 1922; from 1923 he represented Dublin North until his election to the senate (1928). In 1929, having become involved in the insurance business, he was made a trustee of the Royal Liver Friendly Society. Costing Cumann na nGaedheal's George Crosbie (qv) a senate seat by his zealous canvassing for Laurence O'Neill, he resigned from the senate in 1931, but was dissuaded from giving up parliamentary politics and was reelected for Dublin North (February 1932) with the country's highest vote. Equating Fianna Fáil with ‘Russian bolshevism’, he affiliated himself with Cumann na nGaedheal and became involved in the short-lived initiative to form a United Constitutional Party. Changing his constituency to Dublin North-East (1937), he worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor (who, as he was aware, kept him in office) till he retired from the dáil in 1956. He resigned from the Irish delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference (1950) as a protest against ‘communist’ delegates. He will probably be best remembered however, as lord mayor of Dublin. Monopolising the post from 1930, ‘the shaking hand of Dublin’, or ‘Alfie’ as he was more commonly known, retired in 1939, and by his casting vote elected his successor, Kathleen Clarke (qv). He returned for a tenth and final term as lord mayor in 1954. Exchanging his support in the dáil for Cumann na nGaedheal (and later Fine Gael) support of his mayoral candidature, he was the embodiment of political brokerage, balancing earnest endeavours on behalf of his constituents with his own political advancement. In 1932, as the first lord mayor of greater Dublin, he presented the papal legate Cardinal Lauri with the freedom of the city. The reception he hosted for the cardinal was also one of the most notable social functions of the eucharistic congress. In 1933 he took part in the Irish national pilgrimage to Rome and was presented with the insignia of papal honour, which was stolen on his tour of North America in 1935. During that tour he also received the freedom of Toronto. Though criticised for attending the funeral of George V, he was returned to the dáil with an increased vote in 1937. In 1938 he put himself forward as a potential presidential candidate against Seán T. O'Kelly (qv). An inter-party conference agreed that the position should not be tainted by party politics and selected the neutral Douglas Hyde (qv) instead. He visited Rome in the holy year 1951, where he was created a knight of the Grand Cross of St Sylvester. After the floods in north Dublin (1954) he initiated a distress fund from the Mansion House. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Dublin University (July 1955). He died 13 March 1956 in Dublin.
He married (20 April 1910) Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Heagney, licensed vintner of 1 North Wall, Dublin. They lived at 48 Palmerston Rd and subsequently 203 Upper Rathmines Rd. They had eight children: three daughters and five sons, three of whom were independent TDs: Alfred, Dublin North-West (1937–44, 1948–52); Patrick, Dublin North-East (1956–69); and Thomas, Dublin North-West (1952–61).