Navy ‘role model’ fined for striking superior officer while drunk

A highly commended Naval Services officer and “role model” has been fined about €1,450 for striking a superior officer while drunk aboard a Naval Services ship.

Petty officer Diarmuid Cunningham, who has been ordered to pay €1,000 compensation to his victim, was attending a Christmas party onboard the ship while it was, anchored off the coast, although it was  operational and on patrol duties.

The 43-year-old had consumed an “excessive” amount of alcohol during the party, which carried on until around 4am.

He was talking to the superior officer when at one point he demanded: “Who the f**k are you?”.

He then punched him in the face, injuring the officer, who was looking the other way at the time, and disobeyed an order to “go back to his bunk”.

His conduct was seen as “completely out of character” as he “cannot tolerate alcohol”, according to his lawyer Fergus O’Regan.

And at yesterday’s adjourned sentencing hearing at the Naval Base in Haulbowline, Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, the judge, Colonel Michael Campion heard petty officer Cunningham was “in a bad place at the time” due to marital difficulties.

Although the incident took place in 2017, it only came to trial at McKee Barracks in Dublin on July 27, earlier this year.

Petty officer Cunningham pleaded guilty to three charges arising from the incident between him and the officer, who cannot be identified due to the sensitivity of his current position within the Defence Forces.

The three charges he pleaded guilty to in Dublin were that he struck a superior officer, was insubordinate and disobeyed a superior officer, all contrary to sections of the Defence Act 1954.

A number of senior officers provided glowing references about petty officer
Cunningham, including a lieutenant colonel who had commended him for the “above the expected standard” of his service with the Navy.

A chief petty officer described him as a “true team member”, while a senior petty officer described him as a “role model”.

In his victim impact statement, read out in court by prosecuting barrister Commandant Maeve O’Grady, the injured officer said the event has “not had any lasting nor meaningful influence” on him.

And he acknowledged petty officer Cunningham did make known his wish to apologise the day after the incident and he said he feels “no animosity towards him”.

And he said: “The initial anger I felt following the incident was replaced with frustration both with the length of time it has taken to bring closure to the incident and concern that my position at the time not to retaliate had not been vindicated.

“The level of anger and uncertainty I was feeling did cause me to question my future in the organisation.

“This did cause me some level of distress insofar as questioning whether my reputation in the organisation was diminished.” He concluded by saying that the “wholly unprovoked strike” which happened when he was looking the other way has led to an “overriding feeling [of] frustration about the amount of time this has been hanging over my head.” 

Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Tyrrell, also a prosecuting barrister, said that at no point had the injured officer ever suggested or requested any form of compensation.

The judge acknowledged that and said that it was the court’s decision to award the injured officer €1,000 to help towards the injuries he sustained during the incident.

Petty officer Cunningham, who earns €104.19-a-day, was fined 14 days’ pay, and received three reprimands, two of which were ‘severe’.

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