Son of NI peace process advocate dies in US marine training accident

Lt Conor McDowell (24) fatally injured when vehicle overturned in California

Lt Hugh Conor McDowell (24) with his mother Susan Flanigan. Photograph: Facebook.

Lt Hugh Conor McDowell (24) with his mother Susan Flanigan. Photograph: Facebook.

 

A US marine whose father was honoured for his contribution to delivering peace in Northern Ireland, has died in a training incident.

Lt Hugh Conor McDowell (24) was killed when a light armoured vehicle he was travelling in overturned during an exercise in California. Seven other marines were injured in the incident.

Lt McDowell was the only child of Michael McDowell, a Belfast-born journalist, and his wife, Susan Flanigan. Mr McDowell has been Washington-based most of his life and used his contacts in the US administration to facilitate meetings in the early stages of the peace process.

He was awarded an OBE in 2001 for his activities. He was also the founder of the Independent Monitoring Commission, which was set up to keep watch on the activities of republican and loyalist paramilitaries in the North.

On his Facebook page, Mr McDowell paid tribute to his son and said there would be a “massive hole in our hearts” due to his death.

“He was our only beloved child, in whom we were well pleased. We hope to meet again with our son in some way at some time as we pass on, as he has, at so young an age, and with so much of life ahead of him.”

‘Warrior’

He added: “Conor was a warrior, like my father in the Royal Ulster Rifles in the Western Desert, Sicily and Italy in World War Two.

“Sadly, they never met but Conor felt as if he knew him. Conor, since he was a small boy, wanted to be a soldier, and later, a Marine.”

The 1st Marine Division said in a statement: “We recognise that military operations are inherently dangerous, and we take extreme precautions to ensure the safety and welfare of our Marines. This is a tragic accident, and we are heartbroken at the loss of a member of our Marine Corps family”.

Conor McDowell’s godfather and former Alliance leader Lord Alderice said the news was “completely heartbreaking”.

He posted on his Facebook page: “He was such a fine man and so successful in his chosen career. I will always remember sitting with him in the home of his parents, our good friends Michael McDowell and Susan Flanigan on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, and Conor telling me, as a little boy, that he wanted to be in the army.”