Air Corps commandant narrowly avoids prison
Published 01/06/2010 | 05:00
AN Air Corps officer who was dismissed from the Defence Forces for calling his superior "a little prick" is to appeal his sentence and conviction.
Commandant Nile Donohoe (47) is the first officer to be dismissed in over 20 years.
Attached to the No. 5 Support Wing in Baldonnel, Co Dublin, he claimed he had used the words "a little prickly" in his annual appraisal.
But last Friday, a general court martial board found Comdt Donohoe guilty of using threatening or insulting language to a superior officer.
Yesterday, military judge Col Tony McCourt dismissed Comdt Donohoe from the Defence Forces and told him he was lucky to have avoided a jail term.
"A gross breach of military discipline is not acceptable and can never be acceptable," he added.
The court martial was told last week that Comdt Donohoe had called Lt Col Gerry O'Sullivan "a little prick" after receiving an appraisal of his performance on January 30 last year.
Comdt Donohoe claimed he said his annual appraisal, or AF 451, was "a little prickly" and that he wanted a copy of it.
But the six-person board did not accept his version of events and found him guilty after 90 minutes of deliberation last Friday. "I have no hesitation in saying I agree with the board," said Col McCourt.
"The court is satisfied it was a gross and calculated insult to Lt Col O'Sullivan," said the judge. "It demonstrated a clear intention to undermine him... There is no evidence of any apology or remorse," he said.
"Your behaviour on the day in question fell very short of the standard required of someone of your rank and service," said Col McCourt.
"You also knew you would be called in by your supervisor for your annual appraisal. You can hardly have been surprised that you were not recommended for promotion and that your rating was very unsatisfactory.
"You have known for many years that your annual appraisal is a most formal occasion... It is also confidential. You abused the privacy of that meeting and you took advantage of that privacy," he added.
Yesterday, counsel for the defence Fergal Kavanagh told the court that Comdt Donohoe's previous appraisals had been positive or satisfactory and that he had even been recommended for promotion. He said he did not want to undermine the decision of the court.
"An officer has to be robust and courageous... I'm not going to minimise the disrespect the words this court has found him him to have said," said Mr Kavanagh. During the hearing, Mr Kavanagh had called a number of character witnesses on behalf of his client.
One witness, Captain Christopher McQuaid, hailed Comdt Donohoe as a hero as he was involved in dragging an injured soldier to safety while on overseas service.
Capt McQuaid told the court that when he and Comdt Donohoe were serving in the Lebanon an altercation between civilians occurred after a car was stopped at a checkpoint.
"He (Comdt Donohoe) was only a young lieutenant at the time. The shot ricocheted and injured an Irish soldier in the chest," said Capt McQuaid.
"He grabbed the wounded soldier and dragged him to safety and he consoled him."
Captain Mark Caulfield told the court that he had worked with Comdt Donohoe since early 2000 and had a good working relationship with him. He said Comdt Donohoe was responsible for making savings of at least €1.5m on a number of projects including the procurement of fuel and the revamp of the Finner Camp fuel farm.
Comdt Donohoe is married with two children, aged seven and three. He is originally from Co Westmeath but is now living in Co Kildare.
Captain Caroline Burke who is a staff officer in the Commissioned Officers Section told the court he was awarded a UNIFIL medal in 1987, a UN Peacekeeping Medal in 1990 and a Service Medal in 1999.
Speaking to the Irish Independent after the sentencing, Mr Kavanagh said his client would be appealing both the conviction and sentence.