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Sunday 18 August 2019

'I am proud to call him my son' - heartbroken father pays emotional tribute to teen who died after suspected drugs tragedy

The funeral of Jack William Downey at St. Oliver’s, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.
The funeral of Jack William Downey at St. Oliver’s, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.
Only child: Jack Downey (19) is believed to have taken either ecstasy or MDMA at a music festival on Friday

Ralph Riegel

THE heartbroken parents of a Tipperary teen who died after the suspected ingestion of a substance at an Irish music festival hailed him as their "star".

John and Elaine Downey urged the friends of their only child, Jack (19), to now "look after each other" as the teen's Requiem Mass was told Clonmel was "all dried up" from the tears shed over the tragedy at the Indiependence music festival.

Hundreds gathered at St Oliver's Church in Clonmel, Co Tipperary to mourn the only child of John and Elaine Downey.

Fr Michael Hegarty told the packed congregation that "now was not the time for analysing or for offering magic solutions."

"Now is the time for prayer and for supporting the (Downey) family and all Jack's neighbours and friends."

Fr Hegarty said the entire community was shocked by the "cruel loss of a young man at the prime of his life."

The outpouring of grief over the death of the GAA-obsessed teen was, he said, tantamount to the Tipperary town erecting "a wall to protect and shield the family."

The Clonmel teen died last Monday in Cork University Hospital (CUH) having spent three days on a life support machine in the Intensive Care Unit after being rushed to hospital having fallen ill at the music festival.

John and Elaine Downey flanked each other as the Offertory Gifts to reflect their son's life were introduced at St Oliver's - and both paid emotional tributes to their son after Requiem Mass.

"I am not one for fancy words," John Downey said.

"He (Jack) was almost 11lbs when he was born - he was a big man even then."

Mr Downey, a Tipperary based Garda, urged his son's friends, club mates and class mates to now care for each other.

"There is no blame. He will be missed - his friends are now to look after each other and not forget."

"I used to sit back and just admire him - he was a man with a presence. A cheeky little smile."

"He was a fabulous boy - and I am proud to call him my son," he sobbed.

Elaine Downey wept as she described the 19 year old as "the star" of his entire family.

"Jack William Downey - you were the love of my life," she said.

"From the bottom of my heart I want to thank everyone here today, especially all the young people, for doing so much to help our family."

She outlined the Offertory Gifts as symbols of her young son's life and loves.

Amongst the Offertory Gifts were a Clonmel Óg GAA jersey, a hurley, a sliothar, a calculator, a hurley repair kit and a sports book.

Mourners were told that Jack was being buried with a Mullinahone sliothar.

His coffin was covered in the colours of the GAA clubs he adored.

Guards of honour were provided by Clonmel Óg GAA club, Clonmel High School students and the teen's Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) friends.

The coffin left St Oliver's through a file of Gardai provided by John Downey's colleagues.

The student fell ill while attending the Indiependence music festival in Mitchelstown, Co Cork last week.

A first year Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) accountancy student, Mr Downey complained of feeling unwell at the Mitchelstown event around 5pm on Friday, shortly after arriving on site with some friends.

It is suspected he ingested some form of substance, possibly Ecstasy or MDMA.

He was rushed to CUH but was in a critical condition on arrival.

Mr Downey died three days later having failed to regain consciousness.

His heartbroken parents had maintained a vigil by his CUH bedside.

A post mortem examination was conducted on Tuesday but the full results will not be known until all toxicology tests are concluded.

A Cork coroner's inquest will now be staged.

Gardaí are investigating the source of the substance ingested by the teen.

The young man, who sat his Leaving Cert in 2018, was the only child of John and Elaine Downey.

His father is a respected Tipperary-based Garda.

Tributes to Jack Downey have been paid by CIT, his Clonmel Óg GAA club and Clonmel Curate Fr Michael Toomey.

As a special mark of respect, Mr Downey lay in repose at Clonmel Óg GAA clubhouse until his removal on Friday evening to St Oliver's Church.

Fr Toomey said the tightknit Clonmel community was left "shocked and heartbroken" by the teen's death.

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