It is a viewing booth wherein the viewer is invited to present a coin to a slot which mechanically opens a window revealing a silk tri-colour flag fluttering to the National Anthem. The piece responds to the Irish flag’s origins. Modeled on the banner of the French Republic the first tricolour of green, white and orange was made in Paris of pure silk in1846 by a group of French women sympathetic to the Irish cause and presented to Young Irelander Thomas Francis Meagher. Peep references my earliest memories of seeing the flag at Gaelic football matches in Belfast’s Casement Park with my Father in the 1960’s. The GAA it seems had an unspoken exemption from a Northern Ireland Government Act effectively banning the Irish flag.
So these encounters with this high flying, pristine and exotic alignment of colours flown against the green Belfast hills instilled a certain excitement in my young and impressionable self that I have compared to an erotic experience. Peep also speaks of the fantasy of nationhood emblems of state represent. In the case of Ireland, the illusive harmony between Green and Orange.......
“I wasn’t sure growing up whether I was straight….Irish or slightly bi…national. We watched BBC2. I was interested in other flags and emblems, but it was the tricolour that really got me aroused. You saw so few of them. They were censored, hard to get and when you did see one you’d really drool over it….Would you look at the colours on that! We stood erect to her anthem. On first hearing the English version of Amhrán na bhFiann I thought the first line was ‘Soldiers are wee’…why wouldn’t they be?.. Then I discovered it was ‘Soldiers are we’, us collectively. But then that was confusing because in my experience soldiers were they. They were soldiers we were wee" From A Border Worrier, John Byrne 1997
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An Ghaeltacht 1972
Re-enactment fom memory. 2016
Our group, Christian Brothers boys from west Belfast arrived in a place called Dunlewey, which I’d never heard of until then. The tales of céilís and kissing girls had emanated from Bunbeg, Derrybeg, and Meenaclady. So, it turned out that this was the first year Dunlewey, remotely located at the foot of Mount Errigal, had hosted students. Our fellow pioneering scholars were De La Salle boys also from Belfast and CBS lads from Omagh. But no girls, apart from the few locals who would occasionally peep out from behind ditches or trees, well out of chatting up range. I was very disappointed. Getting on with the other boys involved a lot of bravado, turf riots, fishing, competing over who could swim out the furthest on Dunlewey Lough and smoking. All the toughest fellas smoked and I made a serious effort to join them but I couldn’t, it made me sick.
Another way of attaining some status was to shoplift on trips to the coast. I was of course taught that stealing was wrong but being a slightly posh nonsmoker felt more wrong. So on a day out to Bunbeg I lifted a bouquet of little tricolours from the counter of a souvenir shop. Quickly leaving the shop I panicked at the prospect of being sent home in shame and ran and hid behind a wall. I’m not sure how long I hid there for but it could’ve been an hour waiting for the return journey. As time passed I became less nervous anticipating the great impression I’d make on my fellow students.
I vaguely remember covertly distributing flags in the minibus but I can’t recall whether anyone was impressed. It’s the hiding I remember."
Bernard Byrne explains the significance of the bullet holes in Dublin’s GPO to his family 2016
During the trip I remember visiting the Zoo, Moore Street, being impressed by the neon signs around O’Connell Street and having a Knickerbocker Glory in a place called The Irish Steakhouse beside O’Connell Bridge.
I particularly remember my father pointing out the bullet holes on the pillars of the GPO. I was very impressed by this, a first encounter with physical evidence of war and war loomed very large in my imagination then. Like most young boys I read war comics, played at war, cowboys and indians (sic) and had a considerable stash of toy soldiers and plastic armaments. Unbeknown to my parents who were both then ambitious and in their prime, we were soon to find ourselves in the midst of a new war that would drastically alter their plans.
By 1971 my father was forced out of his grocery business and my mother, a trained nurse went back to nursing because of a shortage of staff in the hospitals. There were medical supplies under the beds in our house given to her by a local vigilante group for fear of what was yet to happen. On occasion we all took to the carpet in the living room in case of a ricochet when gunfire sounded close. This seemed unlikely to me in our out of the way cul-de-sac but a gable wall around the corner had been hit. I’d seen the bullet hole and I knew bullet holes.
My father knew Dublin a bit in 1968, mostly from his trips down to watch football matches. He seemed to know where to get his ‘on-holiday treat’, a mixed grill. This, though, was the first time he’d driven down in our grey Morris Minor and he was always lost and asking directions. “Much obliged to you”, he’d say each time when put right as we drove off to get lost again. "
The subsequent performance in November 2012 in the Chapel, The Royal Hospitall Kilmainham (IMMA) featured the combined choirs of the Carlow Choral Society and The Dublin Bach Singers with their director Blánaid Murphy, widely recognised as one of Ireland's pre-eminent choral educators,. Good Works premieres new Art Hymns by Byrne, scored by Elaine Agnew. "
Architectural Projection 2010
John together with DV4 (Dublin) and Cavan Arts Office were awarded a Business to Arts award presented by President Mary McAleese in 2011
Click Here for Video of Casting Light 2012"
Ballymun Equestrian Project
- Misneach. A Monumental Celebration of Youth.
- Smokers, 2008
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Dublin's Last Supper
Would You Die For Ireland?
- Would You Die for Ireland?
Imagine Belfast 2008
The Border Interpretative Centre
No Subtitle 2000
- The Border Itself