Garbhan Downey, novelist and editor, is born in Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on February 24, 1966. He is the former Director of Communications and Marketing for Culture Company 2013, which delivers Derry’s City of Culture year.
Downey is a product of St. Columb’s College, the Catholic grammar school whose past pupils include John Hume, Seamus Heaney and Brian Friel.
Downey cuts his teeth in journalism editing University College Galway’s student magazine in the late 1980s. After graduating with an MSc in computing from the University of Ulster, he works as an entertainment columnist with the Derry Journal and then as a staff reporter with the Londonderry Sentinel, before moving to The Irish News to become the paper’s Derry correspondent.
Downey’s offbeat reports of the 1994 FIFA World Cup for The Irish News are subsequently compiled for his first book, Just One Big Party. He spends six years as a BBC news producer in Derry and Belfast, before joining the Derry News as editor in 2001. During his period as editor (2001–2004), the Derry News wins two Newspaper Society awards for Fastest Circulation Growth in the United Kingdom.
Since 2004, Downey has published six comic novels set in the criminal underbelly of post-ceasefire Ireland. His books have been described as “a superb blend of comedy, political dirty tricks, grisly murder and bizarre twists.”
A former deputy-president of the Union of Students in Ireland, Downey is one of the organisers of a student occupation of government offices in Dublin on Budget Day 1988 in protest against education cutbacks.
In June 2002, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) get a court order to force Downey to hand over pictures the Derry News had captured of the Real Irish Republican Army attacking a communications post.
In 2006, Downey helps establish the new Northern Ireland literary review Verbal and edits the publication for its first six issues.
A lifelong political anorak, in 2007, Downey works as an election pundit for TV3 (Ireland), alongside the Irish comedian Brendan O’Carroll. In 2010, he wins a contest to predict the winners of Northern Ireland’s 18 Westminster constituencies, missing out on just one, Naomi Long, who surprisingly beat First Minister Peter Robinson in Belfast East. He donates his prize, a framed Ian Knox cartoon, to Long by way of apology.
Downey’s 2010 comedy-thriller The American Envoy is the first novel issued by an Irish publishing house as a Kindle e-book, simultaneously with its paperback release.
In June 2011, Downey is appointed Director of Media for Culture Company 2013, the body tasked with delivering Derry’s UK City of Culture year.
Downey is married to Una McNally, and they have two children.