Mike Byrne was a member of Dungarvan Urban District Council between 1908 and 1918. He was also on the Board of Guardians at the Work house between 1913 and 1917. The workhouses eventually became County homes. Byrne set about improving the conditions suffered by the inmates. Breakfast consisted of porridge or 'stirabout", and dry bread was generally the main meal of the day. Meat was served only on very rare occasions. The inmates had the 'pauper' branded on the backs of their garments. Byrne successfully campaigned to have this brand removed. This step was followed by local authorities all over the country. He also introduced an ounce of tobacco for the men every week and an ounce of snuff for the women. This initiative was also commended throughout the country.
A memorial plaque was erected on the front of the Town Hall, St. Augustine Street (the building in which Waterford County Museum is now housed) - It reads:
'Councillor Michael Byrne, R.I.P. Member of Dungarvan Urban District Council 1908-1918 and Board of Guardians 1913-1917. In grateful remembrance of his untiring and successful efforts to secure concessions and comforts for the inmates of the institutions under the control of the Board. He spent his public life fighting for the interests of his fellow workers. Ar Dheis Dé go reibh a Anam. Erected by the Dungarvan Council of Trade Unions.'
Author: William Fraher