Monday 27 May 2019

Low-key local advocate who became an unlikely rebel


Catherine Byrne Photo: Frank McGrath
Catherine Byrne Photo: Frank McGrath

Catherine Byrne is an unlikely political rebel. In one way or another she has represented her locality, centred on Inchicore in the south of Dublin city, for almost 20 years.

She topped the poll when first elected to Dublin City Council in 1999, and eventually was elected a TD for Dublin South-Central in 2007, when veteran Fine Gael TD Gay Mitchell opted to concentrate on the European Parliament.

Ms Byrne had served as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 2005 and used her term to accord freedom on the city to Ronnie Delany and Bob Geldof. She also initiated the 'Unsung Heroes' awards.

In May 2016, then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny appointed her junior minister responsible for communities and anti-drugs action. She was re-appointed by Leo Varadkar in June 2017 and was given additional responsibility for health promotion.

In Dáil Éireann she is known as someone who likes to mention "Inchicore" as often as possible. That is a strong indicator of the origins of this continued stand-off between herself and the Housing Minister.

She has also at times shown a tough streak and, despite the controversy, she did not shrink from an inherited project of a legally supervised drug injection centre for Dublin. At the height of the anti-water charge demonstrations she sustained a lot of local pressure and her constituency office was attacked.

Ms Byrne is now aged 62, is married with four grown-up children, and originally worked in catering. Away from politics she has engaged in sport, music and is also involved with her local Catholic church.

She played soccer at the highest level and later managed local teams, including schoolboy sides.

She has also completed a two-year course in lay ministry at All Hallows College in Dublin. For many years she headed the local St Michael's folk and gospel group in her local parish.

Irish Independent

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