The Minister for Defence has apologised for the distress and upset suffered by former army lieutenant Donal de Róiste, who was forced to retire from the Defence Forces in June 1969.

The Department of Defence confirmed this evening that a settlement, the terms of which are confidential to the parties, has been agreed with Mr de Róiste.

A review into the circumstances of his compulsory retirement was published this evening and found it had been made on foot of a fundamentally flawed and unfair process and was therefore not in accordance with the law.

His solicitor Eamonn Carroll requested that Mr de Róiste be awarded his costs incurred in this review into his retirement but the report's author, Niall Beirne SC, said the terms of reference of the inquiry did not permit him to make such a reward.

Minister Simon Coveney said this evening that he accepted the conclusions of the review report received from Mr Beirne SC.

"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," Mr Coveney said.

"In this regard, the review has concluded that Mr de Róiste’s dismissal was not in accordance with law."

In the statement, Mr Coveney also acknowledged the long-standing interest that President Michael D Higgins has taken in Mr de Róiste’s case.

He also thanked Niall Beirne SC for conducting the review.

Mr de Roiste, a brother of former Presidential election candidate Adi Roche, launched a campaign with his family in 2002 aimed at clearing his name.

This evening, Mr de Róiste said he feels that a weight has been lifted following the review and the apology.

"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 said.

In a statement, he thanked his family, friends and legal team.

Donal de Róiste (far right) pictured with his siblings (L-R) Len, Concubhair and Adi Roche

The family of Mr de Róiste has said that it "wholeheartedly" welcomes the findings.

In a statement, the Roche family said: "We are profoundly grateful for today's publication of the review report and the announcement of the apology to Dónal, 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."

In 1969, Mr de Róiste was a 23-year-old commissioned officer in the Defence Forces based at Custume Barracks, Athlone.

In April of that year, he was urgently questioned by the army authorities following an allegation that he had been in company of criminals or subversives, who were under observation by the security services. The family says that the person who made the allegation against Mr de Róiste has never been identified.

In his 22-page report published this evening, Mr Beirne said that his review had coincided with with nationwide restrictions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and that this, along with a dispute over certain refactions in the documentation given to Mr de Róiste, had led to a number of unavoidable delays in the process.

However Mr Beirne said he was satisfied he had been able to inspect all relevant documentation in the possession of the Department of Defence.

He said the documentation was probably incomplete and given the events under review happened 53 years ago, this was not surprising.

Mr Beirne SC said in his report: "There is no doubt that a dangerous national security situation confronted the State in 1969" and that the activities of an IRA splinter group "posed a grave threat to national security".

He said this context must be considered in assessing the reasonableness of the decision under review.

However, he said there was no apparent reason why national security considerations should entitle army authorities to disregard their obligation to "afford the most basic procedures of natural justice to Mr de Róiste," who appeared oblivious to the serious nature of what his fate might be.

He found the Department of Defence had established no valid reason for its failure to institute a formal hearing into the matter and added: "Put simply, how could Mr de Róiste be reasonably expected to respond to allegations that had bot been formally put to him?"

He also found a letter dated 25 June 1969 informing Mr de Róiste of his retirement failed to give reasons for such a decision.

But he accepted that under the state of the law as understood in 1969, there was no obligation to give reasons for such a decision.

He determined that the decision to compulsorily retire Mr de Róiste was made on foot of a fundamentally flawed and unfair process and was not in accordance with the law.

But he found on the basis of documentation available to the Defence Forces at the time that the decision to compulsorily retire Mr de Róiste "was reasonable".