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Death of James Downey

21 April 2016

Tributes have been paid to NUJ life member James Downey, who has died in Dublin. 

He was a long-serving columnist with The Irish Independent and had previously served as deputy editor of The Irish Times. He was a long-time member of Dublin branch and a passionate trade unionist.

Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary described James Downey as “a journalist of formidable intellect, style and wit who believed passionately in the right of journalists to ask difficult questions”.

Extending sympathy to Mr Downey’s wife Moira and to his daughters, Rachel and Vanessa, Séamus said James Downey had made an immense contribution to Irish journalism and to public life.

He added:

“James Downey was a provocative columnist. He had an unrivalled knowledge of Irish politics. He was urbane and sophisticated, yet never lost touch with his rural roots or his love of Co Leitrim. He was the best of company and will be missed as a friend and mentor. He could be provocative, controversial and even annoying but no one could ever accuse him of being boring. Irish journalism has lost a significant figure but he leaves behind a rich legacy through the archive of his work, his memoir and the many memories cherished by former colleagues”.

Former colleagues have been paying tribute to James Downey, who was known to many of his friends as Jim.

NUJ Member of Honour Mary Maher said:

 "Back in the days when there were two Irish Times editions, it was Jim who ended his working day sometime after 1 am, waving good night to the night shift subs with a grin and a chant --' Let's have a great paper in the morning!' --- and we laughed and waved back suggesting  possible catastrophes to stop the press, explosions, earthquakes, bombs and worse.
"He was the deputy editor, heavily involved in everything that went into the paper and how it got there, right down to the new press--- and at the same time he was definitely one of us. He did it all, and he did it with his usual wit and fundamental commitment to principle. When I asked to move to the all-male subs desk in  the early 1970s, Jim told me just how to break the barrier diplomatically. I was happily there for years and more women joined us. Jim Downey was one of a kind, and will be remembered by all who knew him."

Séamus Martin, former FoC, of The Irish Times chapel said:

"Jim, like most journalists of his generation, was never off work. I remember at dinner in a French restaurant in Ballsbridge in the days before mobile phones a story broke that required an editorial. The office rang the restaurant. An old-fashioned telephone was brought to the table and Jim launched into an ad-lib leader. The clientele was stunned into silence as his "a prioris" and "a posterioris" and "a fortioris" resounded through the room."

Funeral arrangements: Funeral Mass in St Patrick's Church, Dromahair, Co Leitrim, at 12 noon on Saturday 23 April,  followed by burial in Creevelea Abbey. Family flowers only.

Tags: , James Downey, obituary, irish times, irish independent