Irish News

Friday 11 July 2014

Rabbit rescued from the Liffey is missing again

Alan O'Keeffe

Published 02/01/2014|18:45

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John Byrne with his rabbit, Princess on Dublin's henry Street. Picture credit; Damien Eagers/ Evening Herald  27/12/2013
John Byrne with his rabbit, Princess on Dublin's henry Street

THE rabbit rescued from the Liffey is missing.

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The six-year-old bunny, Barney, hit the headlines in 2011 when his owner, John Byrne, jumped into the river to save it from drowning.

On the day of the famous rescue, Mr Byrne (38) had been sitting with Barney on a footpath on O'Connell Bridge in Dublin receiving donations from passers-by.

A passing youth suddenly grabbed Barney and threw him into the river. Mr Byrne jumped into the river and swam under the bridge to grab hold of the struggling rabbit.

Both man and rabbit were pulled from the river by Dublin Fire Brigade.

The pet and his owner became famous and Mr Byrne, hailed as a hero, received a 'Compassionate Citizen Award' from the Animal Rights Action Network.

Now, Mr Byrne, (38), has appealed for help to find Barney after the animal went missing outside his Dublin home.

"I just want him back," he told the Herald as he sat on the footpath outside Arnotts department store on Henry Street in Dublin with a paper cup and two other pets.

Usually, one of Mr Byrne's little dogs would sit beside Barney and Mr Byrne.

Mr Byrne,explained that, each night, he would put Barney and his other five pets out through a door of his home at Kirwin Street Cottages in Stonybatter.

Each night, all the animals would come back into the house around 15 minutes later.

About three weeks ago, at around 11.30pm, Mr Byrne put Barney out as usual in the company of his dogs Lilly, Sammy, Minty and Roxy, as well as kitten Mucker.

While all four dogs and the kitten returned indoors, there was no sign of Barney.

"I think someone passing just picked him up and took him," Mr Byrne told the Herald. "I think someone has him still.

"If an award was offered, maybe I would get him back."

As he spoke to the Herald, a new three-month-old rabbit named Princess which he got two weeks ago sat on his lap in Henry Street.

"I think Barney's out there somewhere," he said.

"I want him back safe. It's my birthday on January 13 and it would be a great present to get him back."

Mr Byrne remembers vividly that July afternoon in 2011 when the passing youth hurled Barney into the river.

"I'll never forget it. When I jumped in, my feet hit the bottom of the river. I saw white and I thought I was dead," he said.

He managed to grab the rabbit and said he held him for 40 minutes until they were pulled out of the river by firefighters. Barney was lucky not to die of fright, he added.

"Barney only has a little heart. The least little thing could kill a rabbit. He was lucky," he said.

Mr Byrne said he had completed a life-saving swimming course as a teenager when he lived for six years in an institution which was run by the Christian Brothers in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

He had been confined to the institution from the age of 12 because he had failed to attend school.

The young culprit who threw Barney into the Liffey, Gary Kearney (20), originally from Crumlin, was given four months detention by Dublin District Court when he pleaded guilty to animal cruelty.

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