John Downey joined the Irish Volunteers in 1914, becoming a member of B Company in the 4th Battalion of the Dublin Brigade. He fought in the South Dublin Union during the Easter Rising, joining a party of eight Volunteers under the command of Captain George Irvine in a hut at the rear of the building. After engaging in a gun battle with a large group of British troops, Irvine and six of his surviving men were captured and sent to the Kilmainham police station. Court-martialled and sentenced to death, Downey’s sentence was commuted to three years of penal servitude and he was interned in Portland and Lewes prisons until June 1917. He rejoined the Irish Volunteers upon his release but poor health limited his participation in the events of subsequent years. He recovered sufficiently to join the National Army in 1922 and rose to the rank of 2nd lieutenant during the Civil War.
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