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High-achieving soldier adds another string to his bow

HE could just be one of the Army's most qualified soldiers but it's unlikely he'll ever get to use his most recently acquired skills in the Defence Forces.

Private Tim Doyle received his parchment scroll from the President of the High Court, the Honourable Justice Nicholas Kerins, on December 15.

He is now a fully qualified solicitor -- not bad going for someone who joined the army 31 years ago, having just an Intermediate Certificate under his belt.

However, because of his rank in the Defence Forces, his legal skills are not ever likely to be utilised while he's still in uniform.

Mr Doyle is a member of the 'other ranks' or so-called 'enlisted personnel' that make up about 70 per cent of the forces.

He is thought to be one of a very small number of members of the Defence Forces who is actually a fully qualified solicitor.

Although the Army is not able to disclose the qualifications of its personnel, it confirmed that it had seven barristers and one solicitor working in its legal service.

However, the Army representative association PDFORRA says it is unaware of any member of 'other ranks' who has been a qualified solicitor.

Mr Doyle, from Killorglin in Co Kerry, joined the Defence Forces in 1980 and completed a four-year apprenticeship as a motor technician.

He also studied five Leaving Certificate subjects in the evenings, and sat this exam in 1981.

He went on to achieve a Technician's Diploma in 1984, followed by a Certificate in Engineering from the Dublin Institute of Technology in 1989.

He also managed to squeeze in three tours of duty to the Lebanon between 1985 and 1988.

Then it was back to college again, this time to the Cork Institute of Technology, where he achieved his Certificate of Road Transport Engineers.

Part of his course included law, which opened up a new interest for him, so between 1994 and 1998 he studied for a degree in law from the Cork Law School. The following year he completed another tour of duty in the Lebanon.

He then did the final entrance exams (FE1) for the Law Society of Ireland but faced two more hurdles -- he had never studied Irish constitutional law and needed to pass an Irish exam.

In 2007, with his FE1, his Irish test passed and his law degree, he was ready to complete his second apprenticeship, this time as a solicitor.

He took 33 months' unpaid leave from the Defence Forces, which allowed him to attend Blackhall Place, and worked with a legal firm in Tralee that specialises in criminal law.

He went on the solicitors' roll in May 2011 and then on December 15 finally received his parchment.

Now, at 48, he's already half way through a Master's Degree in International Criminal Law and Peace Support Operations. And he still found the time to get married and raise three children.

But as regards using his legal qualifications, because he's not a commissioned officer he is outside the frame.

"Tim would dearly love to be able to use his qualifications. He's worked hard and long and at the end of it you should be able to give your skills to your organisation but because of protocol, this won't be easy," a source close to the family told the Sunday Independent.

"He has no sense that he's entitled to it but it is an extraordinary story of achievement."

Sunday Independent