“This is a proud moment, he can walk tall and walk proud today,” Chernobyl campaigner Adi Roche said of the Government’sdecision to formally exonerate her brother Dónal de Róiste, who was forced to retire from the Defence Forces more than 50 years ago.
The decision at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting comes after a review which began more than two years ago into the circumstances of his forced retirement. He has been cleared of any wrongdoing, will receive a State apology and receive compensation.
Ms Roche told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that it was going to take her brother a long time to adjust and recover. He had carried a very dark shadow for 53 years. “His life begins today.”
There had been many false starts over the last 53 years, she added. “It’s unbelievable that it has taken this long. Poor Dónal himself lost all hope, but others had hope for him, like this solicitor Eamon Carroll who stayed on the case.”
Ms Roche also thanked President Michael D Higgins who four years ago called for a review of the case, and she also thanked the Minister for Defence Simon Coveney for the apology.
On Friday the family will celebrate the exoneration at the gates of Leinster House, the place where the tragic tale had started, she explained and the place where justice was finally done.
Ms Roche said her earliest memories were of her mother writing letters calling for the exoneration of her beloved son. In her 80s she continued writing letters to The Irish Times and to the president of the day. “She gave us the strength to continue the campaign for justice.”
The first thing the siblings will do following the celebration in Dublin is to return home to visit the graves of their parents, she said.
The whole family had been “fractured” when Donal had been dismissed from his commission as an officer. “He had a bright career ahead of him. In one fell swoop not just his life was shattered, it fractured the whole family.
“His good name was deleted.”
For 53 years her brother’s life had been one of pain, “He had been given no right of redress, no trial, no conviction, no evidence, no justice. He had been left reeling at what happened and never found out the reason,” she said.
Returning to Dáil Eireann on Friday was coming full circle, said Ms Roche.