In this sound newsreel the Lord Major of Dublin, Alfred (Alfie) Byrne, discusses Anglo-Irish relations and the prospect of a United Ireland in this speech from 1936.
Seated comfortably in an armchair in a garden and wearing his mayoral chain of office, Mayor Alfie Byrne assures Pathé Gazette viewers that there is no serious animosity between the North and South of Ireland and recommends removal of the border (which he refers to as a ‘festering sore’). He criticises the abusive political language of both unionists and republicans as, according to him, it ‘will not bring prosperity’, and finishes his speech by expressing his dream of a border-free Ireland in the near future. Alfred Byrne was a working politician who served ten times as Lord Mayor of Dublin.
This film is part of The Irish Independence Film Collection – The Early Irish Free State that explores facets of Irish society after the War of Independence and up to the birth of the Irish Republic.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am privileged today owing to the kindness and courtesy of (Messrs) Pathé Gazette to address a few words to you.
Frequently I have crossed the water, as well as been across the water in Northern Ireland, and when I went to England, I have been asked many times: "What is the matter with Ireland?"
I have just been reminded that this is my sixth year of the mayoralty or the city of Dublin and this chain which you see is the same chain that has been worn by Daniel O'Connell when he was Lord Mayor in the year 1847. And because I am six years Lord Mayor of Dublin, a very large number of people think that I can tell them what is the matter with Ireland. Well, let me assure everybody in this house and all my friends who are listening that there are no animosities between, at any rate no serious animosities, between the Irish and the British people. Neither are there any great animosities between our people in southern Ireland and Northern Ireland. I am hopefully that the day is not far distant when they can be got together to work as one man for the prosperity of the whole country and its people.
However, let me give my view on the petition as I see it. I cannot imagine prosperity we all hope for coming to this country until by agreement that festering sore that is really a danger to our country as well as to England. I refer to the removal of the border between north and southern Ireland. If we can get that border removed by consent and if our people, as I said before, will settle down, I am satisfied it will be to the benefit of England as well as our people in Ireland. It will be to our benefit because I think our politicians, our leader of people our public speakers who in my mind are doing much harm to our country by abusing one another. By using language on public platforms, that is not a credit to our country. You’ve often heard it yourself. That if you chance to differ with a man who is aiming as you are aiming for the freedom of this country and its betterment, if you do not agree with him he shouts out the word traitor.
Now I think we've had too much of that kind of language and calling names and giving abuse to one another will not bring prosperity and will not help our unemployed people. It should be all our aim to bring friendship between the peoples of Great Britain and Ireland and then avail to the full of the markets that can be offered. And when that day comes all the young men in Ireland who have left the land to go to towns and cities, they may be in a position to go back to the land and be provided with a decent means of living that you and I and all the people earnestly desire them to have.
Now, if we hated one another a little less than what we do today and if we did not exaggerate our admiration of those who we agree with and if we had a little less condemnation of our friends as well as our opponents, I think it would be to the advantage of the whole country. This little country of ours cannot continue to keep two parliaments with two big sets of officials going. And if I can be of the slightest service now or at any time in bringing peoples together that will remove that border it will be the one ambition of my life. And as I said already to you, I hope the day is not distant when they will get together and think of the unemployed and think of the future of the country regardless of what it means to themselves in their public positions.