A LARGE gathering of relatives, spanning several generations, marked the centenary year of the murder of Dublin Metropolitan Police Constable Michael Downing, at a special ceremony in Droumlave Cemetery in his native Adrigole.
The event was organised by Beara Historical Society as part of National Heritage Week and its chairman, Fachtna O’Donovan, welcomed all present, giving some of the family history of the young man and that night in October 1919 when he was fatally shot at High St, near Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin.
The DMP was an unarmed police force and the young constable, who had swopped shifts with a colleague because he had a date that night, came across an incident – according to the subsequent inquest – in which two men were attacking a woman.
Sharing some of his research at the graveside, grandnephew Art McGann, from Dublin, revealed that Constable Downing may, in fact, have interrupted some IRA men moving explosives and that one of the key witnesses at the inquest could have been involved in the shooting and not just the passer-by he claimed he was at the time. The constable was just 23 years old when he was killed.
Fachtna O’Donovan introduced a fellow retired garda, who had also served with him at Kevin St in Dublin, the station at which Constable Downing was based. Gerard Lovett, on behalf of the Historical and Reconciliatory Police Society, said that Irish men who served with the RIC and DMP were not traitors; they had their beliefs and stuck to them.
The plaque on Constable Downing’s grave to mark the centenary was unveiled by his two closest relatives present, niece Kathleen Moran (nee Power), Bantry, and nephew John Joe O’Sullivan, Kenmare. The ‘Last Post’ was poignantly sounded on trumpet by Gerard O’Driscoll, from Skibbereen, followed by Amhrán na bhFiann.