Thursday 19 July 2018

Worlds of media and politics bid fond farewell to true gent

LEGEND: James Downey. Photo: Mark Condren
LEGEND: James Downey. Photo: Mark Condren
VOICE OF INTEGRITY: Funeral Mass of journalist James Downey, at St Patrick’s Church, Dromahair, Co Leitrim. Hundreds of mourners paid tribute to the former Irish Independent columnist. Photo: Brian Farrell
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

"His was a voice of integrity and that voice is now stilled."

These were the words used to pay tribute to esteemed journalist James Downey as hundreds of mourners gathered in the small village of Dromahair, Co Leitrim for his funeral mass.

Fr John McTiernan told a packed St Patrick's Church that the well-respected commentator had been a man of great wit and good humour with an incisive mind and unrivalled insight into the Irish psyche.

Hundreds of mourners joined his wife Moira, daughters Rachel and Vanessa, his siblings Eva, Frances, Maria and Tony and extended family to pay tribute to the journalistic legend.

His daughter Rachel recalled the Irish Independent columnist as not only one of the finest journalists of hisgeneration but "also a brilliant teacher, a remarkable advisor and the best father we could ever have wished for."

She told those gathered that journalism and politics had been his "life blood" and gave him so much joy.

"He became a journalist because he believed in a better world, one that is more equal, inclusive and based on social justice and saw journalism as a means to achieve this," she said.

Describing him as a brilliant father and teacher she added: "Our mother always thought that he should enter academia but I think not. Our dad was in love with the moment, of listening to what people were saying and gauging the mood of the nation. His love of being in the know was infectious."

Speaking about her father's great love of knowledge and enthusiasm for everything from world politics to opera and Crystal Palace football club, she recalled the words of one journalist colleague; "Before we had Google we had Jim Downey."

Mourners from the world of media and politics joined the family in paying their final respects to the journalist. Among them were Irish Independent editor Fionnan Sheahan, RTE's Tommie Gorman, Sean Whelan and former London editor Mike Burns and journalists David McKittrick, Miriam Lord, Mary Maher, Conor O'Clery, Paddy Clancy and Gerry Thornley.

President Michael D Higgins was represented by his Aide de Camp Lt Commander Patricia Butler, while former TDs Brendan Smith, Conor Lenihan, Declan Bree and Frank Feighan were also in attendance.

During his homily, Fr John McTiernan quoted Patrick Kavanagh's poem Memory of My Father, but said in this case James "certainly hadn't fallen in love with death, rather he continued to embrace life very fully and after his illness continued to live in the springtime, in the hope that it brings. And indeed look forward to happy summer days".

But he said "the Lord had called him gently home" on Wednesday, just one day before his 53rd wedding anniversary.

Describing him as a man with "unrivalled insight into the Irish psyche" and, a journalist with an encyclopaedic knowledge of world news and public affairs.

"So we have come to the end of Jim's journey. I think Jim decided that he could wait no longer for a government to be formed," he said.

Sunday Independent

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