Michael Dowling participated in the Howth gun-running in 1914 as a member of F Company in the 4th Dublin Battalion of the Irish Volunteers. He spent the Easter Rising in the GPO, receiving a wound at the end of the week whilst evacuating to Moore Street. After being released from Dublin Castle hospital, he was interned in Frongoch prison camp until September 1916. Dowling rejoined his battalion in 1917 and rose to the position of lieutenant during the War of Independence. He took up a position with republican forces in Barry’s Hotel at the outbreak of the Civil War in Dublin, fighting until his arrest in October 1922. He was subsequently interned by the government until September 1923.
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