Northern Ireland

Barney O’Dowd: Loyalist gun victim who lost two sons and brother in Troubles shooting dies aged 100

Originally from Co Down, he has been remembered as a ‘real gentleman’

Barney O'Dowd on his 100th birthday with some of his family L-R Loughlin, Noel, Cathal and daughter Eleanor. Picture by Hugh Russell
Barney O'Dowd, pictured last May on his 100th birthday, with some of his family, Loughlin, Noel, Cathal and daughter Eleanor. PICTURE: HUGH RUSSELL

A Co Down man who survived a loyalist gun attack which claimed the lives of his two sons and brother almost 50 years ago has died aged 100.

Barney O’Dowd, who was originally from Gilford, has been remembered as a “real gentleman” and someone who gave “hope and energy” to others.

Regarded as one of the oldest surviving victims of the Troubles, Mr O’Dowd passed away in Connolly Hospital, near Dublin on Wednesday.

His death comes less than a year since he and his family gathered to mark his 100th birthday.

Mr O’Dowd’s family suffered devastating loss when they were caught up in one of the darkest periods of the Troubles.

Barry O’Dowd (left) and his brother Declan O’Dowd
Barry O’Dowd (left) and his brother Declan O’Dowd

In January 1976 his two sons Barry (24) and Declan (19) died along with their uncle Joe O’Dowd (61), after armed and masked loyalists burst into their home at Ballydougan, near Gilford, during a family get together.

Mr O’Dowd, who was 52 at the time, was left with serious injuries after being shot five times during the attack, which was linked to the notorious Glenanne Gang.

The murder squad, which included members of the RUC, UDR and UVF, is believed to have been responsible for killing around 120 people during its sectarian murder campaign.

Just minutes before the O’Dowd family home was targeted members of the gang launched a similar attack at the Reavey homestead at Whitecross in south Armagh.

Following the attack on the O’Dowd home, the family moved to start a new life in Co Meath, but their campaign for justice for their loved ones as well as others continued.

Among those to pay tribute to Mr O’Dowd following his death is Alan Brecknell, whose father was killed by loyalists at a bar in Silverbridge, Co Armagh, in 1975.

Alan Brecknell
Alan Brecknell, whose father was killed in 1975, has paid tribute to Mr O'Dowd

He recalled how Mr O’Dowd “just lit up the room” when they first met in 2000 and that they went on to enjoy a “near quarter century of friendship”.

“Even though he was there to meet others who had lost loved ones during the recent conflict, he still had a smile on his face and a handshake that could break your hand,” he said in a post on social media.

Mr Brecknell added that “many people in life are described as gentlemen, but no other term could more aptly describe Barney than he was one of life’s true gentlemen”.

“Barney and his family attended many meetings, legal challenges, book and film launches over the intervening years and Barney made it his business to talk to as many people in the room as he could, it was just who he was,” he said.

Mr Brecknell said Mr O’Dowd was a man who “not only raised our spirits but gave us all hope and energy and showed us all how to enjoy life, friends and family.”

Other tributes posted online have described Mr O’Dowd as a “wonderful man” and “such a big part of everyone’s life in Tulllylish”.