Saturday 18 November 2017

Robert Byrne

Former Limerick mayor whose impact on city he loved will live on says Elaine Byrne

Patrick Robert Byrne, known to Limerick city simply as 'Bobby', died last week after a short illness. He was 75. Bobby was a Limerick institution. His passions were his beloved city's sports, politics and charities.

Born in Limerick in 1937, he grew up in Killarney and Kilrush, where his father was a bank manager. Bobby established the popular Wolfe Tone Bar in O'Connell Avenue in 1963 and ran it with his wife Helen until their retirement in 2003. During that time they were known to feed many a hungry student at the School of Professional Studies, now LIT.

A Fine Gael councillor on Limerick City Council for 25 years, Bobby was first elected in 1974 and represented Ward four until 1999 when his daughter Maria succeeded him. A 'true blue', Bobby served two terms as mayor of Limerick, 1978-1979, and 1979-1980.

He had the honour of conferring the Freedom of the City on Pope John Paul II on his visit to the Greenpark Racecourse in Patrickswell.

To mark his lifelong association with Garryowen, his coffin was draped in the sky blue colours of the rugby club's flag. Bobby was actively involved in coaching and managing at under-age level.

The legendary Irish and Lions hooker, Keith Wood, lived and worked in Bobby's pub when he began his playing career at Garryowen.

There was "a fitting reminder of the respect the former mayor commanded throughout a quarter century in public life", the Limerick Leader noted, as 3,500 people queued from O'Connell Avenue to Wolfe Tone Street to pay their last respects at his removal, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Lifelong friend Michael Noonan described Bobby as "one of life's great gentlemen. He knew and understood people, politics and sport. He was always there to give advice and support to anyone who knocked on his door.

"He was a loyal and true friend and those who had the privilege to know him will miss him dearly."

Above all, Bobby was a gentle giant with a deserved reputation for honesty, sincerity and generosity.

Bobby is survived by his wife Helen, daughter Maria, sons Robert and Stephen, daughters-in-law Fiona and Sandra, grandchildren Emily, Mark and Ronan.

He is also survived by his brothers Fr Tommy -- who delivered his funeral mass -- Peter and Michael, and a large circle of family and friends.

Sunday Independent

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