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Donal Downes dies in Galway

Leading Mayo figure dies in Galway

Neill O’Neill

The death has taken place at the Galway Clinic, following a brief illness, of Mr Donal Downes, former Managing Director of Patrick J Tobin and Co, Consulting Engineers, Galway and Castlebar.
A native of Castlebar, he was aged 82 years and was a central figure in the business and community life of Galway for more than half a century, while never losing his love and support for his native town and county.
He was the recipient of a Mayo People of the Year award in 2010 which recognised his role as founding member and former Chairman and President of the Mayo Association in Galway, his setting up of the Muintir Mhaigh Eo international business fund which supports a number of businesses in Mayo, his involvement in the development of Ballinrobe Racecourse and in the restoration of the 800 year-old Ballintubber Abbey.
Donal was President of the Association of Papal Orders in Ireland and gave much of his time and energy to the Catholic Church. He was a noted figure in the field of marriage guidance and in his leadership of the Papal Orders Association in the run-up to the Eucharistic congress in June. Sadly he will not be there to see the results of his work. While much of his work has still to be revealed, he was working on affairs of the Association up to the day before his admission to hospital.
A member of a long-established Castlebar family, Donal was educated at St Patrick’s NS, Castlebar, St Gerald’s College, Castlebar and University College, Galway.
He was President of the De La Salle Association in Castlebar which in 1988 marked the centenary of the arrival of the De La Salle Order to Castlebar and developed the Community Sports Hall at St Gerald’s College.
Donal was the founder of the Mayo World Association Conventions, ten of which have been held to date, all organised with his active involvement.
Under his guidance Tobin Consulting Engineers were involved in numerous infra-structural projects throughout the West of Ireland. He often said that the Lough Mask Regional Water Supply Scheme which brought potable water to virtually the entire southern region of Mayo, including the twin water towers at Ballinrobe, was his proudest project.
He also piloted the Westport Sewerage Treatment Works and main drainage scheme, completed over a decade ago at a cost of €60 million and the structural engineering for the Basilica of Our Lady at the Marian Shrine in Knock.
Numerous other infra-structural projects throughout the West of Ireland will stand as monuments to the initiative, planning and drive of Donal Downes. Asked on one occasion what was the favourite part of his job he remarked ‘working with wonderful staff and colleagues for a period of over 50 years, developing lasting friendships and the feeling that in some small way I was contributing to the wellbeing of people’.
Donal and his wife Teresa, who holds the title of Dame in the Papal Orders Association, were an inseparable couple and were married for 56 years. She survives him as do his children, relatives and a legion of friends.
Speaking on behalf of the Mayo Association in Galway, Seán McManamon described Donal as a ‘one-off, somebody who gave practical expression to his love of place, country and faith’. His love for Mayo and its people knew no bounds and he would be greatly missed by Mayo people in his native county, in Galway and Dublin and right across the world, he said.
Removal will take place this (Tuesday) evening to the Church of St John to Apostle in Knocknacarra, Galway. The funeral Mass will be held tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12 noon with Dr Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam presiding. Burial will be in Galway.

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