11 May 2006 Edition
Sheila Downey was born in the Markets area of Belfast on 23 February 1928. When her own mother tragically died at the young age of 36, Sheila raised the family of whom six sons were blind. At 19 she married Joe, a deep sea docker, and raised her own family in the Markets.
Sheila and Joe's son, Volunteer Joe Downey was killed by a British army sniper on 21 July 1972 at Cromac St. He was aged 23. Although unarmed at the time of his death he was partipating in a defence operation close to his own home. The area was under attack from up to a dozen positions by the British army and loyalist gunmen from the Donegall Pass.
In the early 1970s Joe Downey was infamously sentenced to a year in prison for shouting "Up the IRA" in Belfast city centre.
Sinn Féin in the Markets was privileged when given permission by the Downey family to name the local cumann in honour of Joe and his comrade Volunteer Tony Nolan.
Sheila Downey, herself a lifelong republican remained steadfast in her beliefs until her death at the age of 78. From the onset of the conflict Sheila dedicated herself to the cause of Irish freedom. She collected for the PDF in support of the many republican prisoners' families, faithfully carried a wreath in honour of her martyred son at the Belfast Easter commemorations and supported the various justice campaigns.
Sheila had a particular interest in campaigning against the hated 'Supergrass' system and travelled throughout Ireland to protest and lobby against this particular form of British injustice.
Sheila would have done anything for the Republican movement. Nothing was either unimportant or too much to ask of her. Indeed on one occasion in a clear act of defiance Sheila had her house painted green, white and orange such was her fervour for the cause.
The cause of Ireland has been served well by many people like Sheila Downey and in her passing on 10 March, 2006 the struggle for Irish freedom has lost a true friend.
Joe Downey has lost his beloved wife. Sheila's family have lost a loving mother.
On behalf of republicans throughout Ireland and beyond the members of the Nolan/Downey Sinn Fein cumann, Markets/Lower Ormeau extend deepest sympathies to Sheila's family, friends, loved ones and wide circle of friends. Sheila's commitment and dedication will continue to inspire us as we build the Irish Republic that she would be proud of. May she rest in peace.