Actor Gabriel Byrne reveals he was attacked by British soldiers in 1980s London because he was Irish

Actor Gabriel Byrne reveals he was attacked by British soldiers in 1980s London because he was Irish

HOLLYWOOD actor Gabriel Byrne has spoken about being the victim of an anti-Irish attack by British soldiers in London in the 1980s. 

Dubliner Byrne was speaking about his emigration to London to follow his acting career with Irish comedian Jarleth Regan on his podcast, An Irishman Abroad.

Byrne, who spent sometime being educated in Britain as a young student said while he had found memories of London as a schoolchild, he met a very different London when he arrived the second time.

"It was the 1980s, and for people who are unfamiliar with that and the political reality at the time, the IRA had taken the campaign onto the British mainland and there were several bombings there.

"There was a great anti-Irish bias at the time, in newspapers and comedy, and Irish people - no matter how long they had lived there - as a result of this dreadful campaign of violence and speaking with an Irish accent could get you beaten up," Byrne said.

Recounting his attack at a taxi rank outside a theatre, Gabriel Byrne said it was "traumatic."

"I was at the Royal Court Theatre in London, we were performing there, and we were standing there at the taxi rank waiting for a cab.

"A group of guys behind us were a little bit inebriated and I said why don't you go ahead and take the next taxi because they were making me uneasy and my girlfriend said to me, 'Just keep looking ahead, don't say anything.'

"One of the guys just tipped me on the shoulder and said where are you from and I said, I'm from Dublin.

"He said, 'You're Irish then?' and I said, yeah, and with that he head butted me in the face and the other three came around and started to kick and punch.

"Obviously I went down."

The actor said the next thing he remembered was the police asking if he wanted to press charges on his attackers.

"I said no, I didn't want to do it. They told me the four guys were actually soldiers who had just come back from Northern Ireland that day and presumably they had come under stress for however long their term of duty was there.

"So to go to the pub beside the Royal Court and to hear an Irish accent, it all comes out.

"They found the guys, and they asked me again if I wanted to press charges and again I said no because it was such a traumatic episode I really couldn't foresee going to court and all that stuff," he added.

You can hear more from Gabriel Byrne's interview - and more from Jarlath Regan's An Irishman Abroad - here.