Donal De Roiste, a brother of former Irish presidential candidate Adi Roche, was in New York to launch a campaign aimed at uncovering the reasons as to why he was dismissed without explanation from the army in 1969.
He did so during a press conference at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan with some big guns at his side, among them author and journalist Don Mullan, a groundbreaking investigator into the hidden circumstances surrounding both Bloody Sunday and the 1974 Dublin-Monaghan bombings.
De Roiste, a lieutenant in 1969, was “retired” from the Irish army “in the interests of the service.” He was never told why he had been dismissed, never allowed to answer any charges or face any accusers.
The formal retirement order came from then President Eamon de Valera.
De Roiste, who uses the Irish language form of his Roche family name, is now more determined than ever to get to the bottom of a story that is about him, but mostly unknown to him.
Along with friends and supporters, he formed the Donal de Roiste Truth Project. The campaign is based in Harrisburg, Pa., where de Roiste’s ex-wife and two children now live.
De Roiste’s family, especially his son Dara, is strongly supportive of his effort to clear his name.
De Roiste claims that he was victimized because he refused to lie in order to cover for a senior officer responsible for almost killing a civilian in a drunk-driving accident.
Whether or not this claim has merit would become quickly apparent if the de Roiste files were made public.
But successive Irish governments have declined to do this on the grounds of national security.
Court efforts have also proved unsuccessful.
In mounting a campaign in the U.S., de Roiste has enlisted the help of a former Irish army officer, Commandant (Major) Patrick Walshe and also William Geary, the now 103-year-old Queens resident and former member of the Garda Siochana who had his good name restored by the Irish government in 1999 after spending a lifetime denying a charge of accepting a bribe from the IRA in 1928, a charge that led to his dismissal from the force.
De Roiste is also being supported by actor Gabriel Byrne who attended the arts center press briefing.
De Roiste told the Echo that when he attempted to secure U.S. citizenship he was denied because he could not explain to the INS why he had been dismissed from the army.
His sister Adi said her brother had been effectively sentenced to a form of life imprisonment with parole.
“It could all be ended with the stroke of a pen,” she told the Echo.