President of Ireland hopes for 'healing’ as he hosts wronged former soldier Dónal de Róiste

President of Ireland hopes for 'healing’ as he hosts wronged former soldier Dónal de Róiste

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has hosted a reception for a former Irish solider who was wrongfully forced to retire from the defence forces.

Dónal de Róiste and members of his family and friends were the guests of President Higgins and his wife Sabina at Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday afternoon.

President Michael D Higgins hosted wronged former soldier Dónal de Róiste at Áras an Uachtaráin (Pics: Maxwell Photography)

The reception was held in recognition of an apology which Mr de Róiste received from the Irish Minister for Defence last December for the distress which he has suffered over five decades, and his long pursuit to clear his good name.

In April 1969 Mr de Roiste was interrogated by army authorities while based at Custume Barracks in Athlone.

Then aged 23, he was interrogated in relation to an allegation made by an unidentified person.

Irish President of the time, Eamon de Valera subsequently retired him from the defence forces, acting on the advice of the government.

Wronged former soldier Dónal de Róiste was joined by friends and family at Áras an Uachtaráin (Pics: Maxwell Photography)

The former solider campaigned hard to clear his name in the years that followed but has only been successful following a review of his case undertaken in 2020 by Mr Niall Beirne.

In 2022 Mr Beirne concluded that Mr de Róiste’s dismissal was not in accordance with the law.

His findings prompted the Government’s apology as well as the agreement of a financial settlement of an undisclosed sum.

This week President Higgins, who has maintained an interest in Mr de Róiste’s case over many years, attempted to further right the wrongs done to the former soldier.

President Higgins read out a letter to Mr de Roiste at yesterday's event

At yesterday’s event, President Higgins read and presented to Mr de Róiste a letter in which the welcomed the findings of Mr Beirne’s review and the apology which Mr de Róiste has now received.

“As President of Ireland, and Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces, I was pleased when in 2020 the Government authorised a review into your case and the circumstances of your forced retirement in 1969,” he said.

“For some time and particularly since my election as President of Ireland, I have sought to bring light to your concerns surrounding your compulsory retirement “in the interest of the service” under signature of the then President, a decision without an appeal process.

“I have been seeking answers to the many questions of fair procedure that have arisen following the use of an instrument under Section 47 (2) of the Defence Act, 1954, by my predecessor President De Valera, on the advice of the then Government.

“All of this has taken a very long time, and for you most of all, I am aware that it has been one of painful and ever more tedious recollection of a wrong suffered decades ago but with enduring consequences.

“I am aware of, and welcome, the findings of the review by Mr. Niall Beirne SC that the decision on your compulsory retirement in 1969 was “fundamentally flawed” and “not in accordance with law”.

“I welcome the apology from the Minister for Defence on behalf of Government which followed the publication of the review for the distress and upset you have suffered over the years.”

Irish President of the time, Eamon de Valera wrongfully retired Mr de Roiste from the defence forces in 1969, acting on the advice of the government.

He added: “I am aware of the tremendous personal toll that this decision has had on your life, of the hurt that it has caused to you and to your family.

“I believe your motivation of joining the Defence Forces as a young man was based on a love of your country and a commitment to a life of service.

“It is my sincere hope that the findings of this review, its acceptance by Government, and subsequent apology, will bring some peace to you personally, and to your family and supporters.

“In recognition of the failings that surround the circumstances of your retirement, I welcome the opportunity to host you and your family at the home of the President, Áras an Uachtaráin, associated as Áras an Uachtaráin was in the great wrong you suffered, but where today you are welcomed, and that wrong and the long process of your vindications is acknowledged and concluded at a meeting that I hope gives you some healing.”