Ex-lieutenant challenges report on his retirement

 

Former Army lieutenant Donal de Róiste yesterday in the High Court challenged the Judge Advocate General's report of an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Mr de Róiste's retirement "in the interests of the service" in 1969.

Mr de Róiste (60), Cabhsa Inismhor, Ballincollig, Co Cork, has maintained for the past 36 years that he was wrongly dismissed from the Army and labelled a sub-versive. He had unsuccessfully challenged his retirement in previous High Court proceedings. He is a brother of former presidential candidate Adi Roche.

The most recent review was carried out by the Judge Advocate General Oonah McCrann SC. She was asked in 2002 to review all Defence Forces and Department of Defence files relating to the decision to retire "ex-Lieutenant Donal Roche".

Mr de Róiste complained that he was only told a day before the inquiry was established that he was entitled to Army documents, but then discovered a decision was made by the minister not to make the documents available until Ms McCrann had concluded her inquiry.

He claimed he should have had the documents and should had been allowed give rebutting evidence to Ms McCrann.

Ms McCrann in her report said it appeared from a hand-written memorandum of April 22nd, 1969, on an Army intelligence file that what was described as a "confidential source" had reported that Mr de Róiste was in the company of members of the Dublin IRA splinter group on April 16-17th, 1969 and had discussed a forthcoming auction of Army vehicles at Clancy Barracks, Dublin.

While it was not possible, having regard to the documents she had before her, to determine whether or not there was a breach of fair procedure in the conduct of the Army's investigation in 1969, she found "the merits of the case may well have resulted in the retirement of ex-Lieutenant Roche in any event".

She said that given the passage of time and the death of certain essential witnesses, it was not possible to decide the precise nature of what transpired at four interviews with Mr de Róiste.

She advised the then minister for defence that no "practical or substantial benefit would be derived from the holding of an oral inquiry into this matter". Mr de Róiste is seeking an order quashing Ms McCrann's report.

Conleth Bradley SC, for Mr de Róiste, said the case was about fair procedures and natural justice. It appeared from the report that Ms McCrann effectively held the view that her role was to establish whether Mr de Róiste was reasonably retired; whether that decision had been correct and whether Mr de Róiste had been afforded fair procedures.

Mr Bradley said that was an enormous jump from reviewing documentation to identify gaps and ambiguities in documentation to be able to find as a fact that Mr de Róiste was correctly retired.

It was astonishing that Ms McCrann came to the view that a mere suggestion of an association or a meeting with subversive elements was enough to retire Mr de Róiste when she herself found there was no evidence to provide that belief.

The hearing before Mr Justice John Quirke continues today.