Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
A former soldier found to have been wrongfully forced to retire from the army 50 years ago has welcomed an apology from the Government.
It comes after a review found that Dónal de Róiste should have been offered basic procedure to challenge the decision to retire him.
In April 1969, when Mr de Róiste was 23 and based at Custume Barracks in Athlone, he was interrogated by army authorities in relation to an allegation made by an unidentified person.
Then president Eamon de Valera subsequently retired Mr de Róiste, acting on the advice of the government.
On Wednesday, Minister for Defence Simon Coveney said the Government had accepted the findings of an independent review, and apologised for the “distress and upset” suffered by Mr de Róiste.
A settlement has been agreed with Mr de Róiste, the value of which has not been made public.
Dónal de Róiste said: “My family and I are happy that my good name has been restored.
“I had never dared to hope that this day would ever come and now that it has, I feel a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.”
He thanked his family, friends, legal team, author Don Mullan and President Michael D Higgins “who believed me when others didn’t and for his help with calling for the establishing of this review”.
In a statement, Mr Coveney said: “Clearly, the security situation in Ireland in 1969 was far different than what it is today.
“However, whilst a decision to retire Mr de Róiste from the Defence Forces in these circumstances, and on the basis of the documentation considered at the time, was found by the reviewer to be reasonable, the review has determined that no national security concerns should have prevented Mr de Róiste from being afforded the most basic procedures of natural justice and the right to defend himself and his good name.
“In this regard, the review has concluded that Mr de Róiste’s dismissal was not in accordance with law.”
The Government has accepted the conclusions of the review report by barrister Niall Beirne.
Mr de Róiste’s family “wholeheartedly” welcomed the findings of the review and said they were “profoundly grateful” to Mr Coveney for his apology.
It comes after five decades of campaigning from the Roche family, who said in a statement that the result “finally bringing closure to this dreadful miscarriage of justice”.
“All our family have ever wanted was for Dónal’s good name and character, and the good name of our family, to be restored.
“As the review report has found, our brother was denied a fair process in 1969, there was no charge, no trial, no conviction and for 53 years we have fought for justice to be done.
“Our parents, and our mother Christine in particular, fought tirelessly over many years for Dónal’s innocence to be declared.”
Mr de Róiste’s sister Adi Roche said: “My brother Dónal’s life has been shattered by a wrongful decision made by the Irish Government in 1969.
“Our family were left with years of pain and incomprehension by that decision; that took away his integrity, his good character, his good name, and that of our family.
“We have suffered over all these years without any redress of justice until now.
“Donal is now free to walk tall and walk proud as he is now, finally, free of that dark shadow of blame and wrongful arrest and dismissal from the Army.”