Army Deafness Claims & the role of Independent Newspapers Group

In the early 1990s the Irish Independent & Evening Herald kicked off a campaign of ridicule against the Irish Defence Forces due to the high age profile of Irish military personnel.

In the 1990s Irish Defence Forces personnel were issued with ONE pair of disposable ear plugs annually and were fined if they lost them.

Driven by “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, the ranks of the Defence Forces had swelled in the 1970s and with a severe recession in the 1980s personnel were obviously reluctant to leave.  Subsequently the average age of an Irish soldier in the early 1990s hovered around the 42 year age mark.

Being true patriots, the Irish Independent & Evening Herald kicked off a campaign of ridicule against the Defence Forces trotting out “Dad’s Army” headlines and urging the government to reduce the age profile.

Knowing how Independent newspapers group operate they were probably conniving with some political party to bring this about. Perhaps it was Fine Gael who connived with the Indo although later the same newspaper helped topple the FG led rainbow coalition with the infamous “it’s payback time” headline the morning of a general election.

Ray Burke TD had issued an Independent Newspapers group subsidiary “Princes Holdings” with MMDS licences for the rebroadcasting of TV signals across Ireland and the Indo had subsequently gotten a bit upset that the rainbow government had failed to crackdown on community TV deflectors which ate into their MMDS profits.  As it turns out Princes Holdings had issued cheques of £30,000 made payable to “cash” to Ray Burke before he awarded them the licences.

In order to lower the age profile, the Department of Defence had to find a way of encouraging older soldiers to leave so that they could start a recruitment campaign for younger personnel. If any other state or semi state employer at the time needed to reduce headcount they offered a Voluntary Early Retirement (VER) package to entice older personnel to leave but the Department of Defence had a better idea.

Military personnel were in a somewhat insecure position in terms of employment in that they were on rolling contracts some of which were in terms as low as 3-years. It was possible that the Defence Forces could decide that your “service was no longer required” and at the end of a particular contract term you could be refused re-engagement. The Department of Defence decided take advantage of “service no longer required”.

The Department of Defence decided to introduce a stringent annual medical and a stringent annual fitness test. As part of the annual medical they introduced a hearing test and this is where the spectacular own goal kicked into play.

Personnel who had served the Defence Forces during a very difficult period in the history of the Irish state started to be informed that their service would be no longer required because their hearing was not up to the required new standard.

Anyone who served in the Defence Forces during this period knows that Health & Safety was nonexistent. There are stories of soldiers bringing civvy ear defenders to range practice only to be told to take them off because the were not “issued”.  All personnel, including those firing heavy weapons , such as artillery, mortars & naval guns, had to make do with stuffing cotton wool into their ears if they were lucky.

When some basic disposable foam earplugs were eventually introduced there were occasions where these were handed out on the ranges only to be collected again and handed out again “used” to different personnel the next day. Yes, some personnel received disposable earplugs that had been inside someone elses ear.

The Defence Forces commenced informing personnel that their service would no longer be required and indeed some were discharged on medical grounds for hearing loss. This spread panic amongst serving personnel as they faced losing their livelihood in a country still in tough economic circumstances.

When personnel started to compare the printed results of their audiometry tests they started to notice a consistent common pattern in the hearing loss. The loss was most pronounced at the frequency range that matched gunfire.

Considerable rules & military law existed for the protection of hearing in the Defence Forces stretching as far back as the the Defence Act of 1954 but these had been utterly ignored. Similar to how the Irish Air Corps ignored legislation relating to chemical Health & Safety, the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence simply ignored their own rules on protecting serving soldiers hearing to save money.

Internal DoD/DF communications came to light where it was revealed that spending of £2 million on full hearing protection for all personnel was refused on cost grounds.

The threat of job losses spurred personnel to take legal action for the hearing loss they suffered. This later spread to FCA/RDF personnel as they were treated in an equally appalling manner.

Eventually the Department of Defence did introduce a Voluntary Early Retirements scheme which ironically was used to bully Irish Air Corps personnel out of SAR squadron at Baldonnel. A SAR winchman who had been injured likely by exposure to aviation fuel & exhaust gasses was treated as a malingerer and returned from sick leave to find an already completed VER form in his locker…all that was left was to sign the dotted line.

Even today the Department of Defence still try to paint the biggest own goal in the history of the state as a scam perpetrated by soldiers and the Independent who helped kick off the whole scandal are happy to keep spreading this misinformation.

Perhaps the Indo can investigate how thousands of serving, retired & reserve personnel were able to spoof deafness at 4kHz?  Anyone who has ever sat an audiometry evaluation knows that the frequencies are fed to you randomly so either thousands of personnel are pitch perfect at spotting 4kHz signals or perhaps it wasn’t a scam at all and through decades of neglect the hearing of thousands of personnel was damaged.

We know who the courts believed!

Incidentally with 78 untimely deaths in the Irish Air Corps workplace chemical exposure,  the Irish Independent are more than willing to look the other way and completely ignore the tragedy. No shareholders interests are being harmed obviously and you only have to consider their anti Sinn Fein headlines to understand how politically directed the Indo currently are.

Delay – Deny – Die

It is interesting to note that the Independent have trotted out former Minister for Defence Michael Smith and there are two things worthy of note.
Firstly Minister Smith,  who paints himself as a hero who defended state coffers from greedy, cheating Defence Forces personnel, was a member of the Fianna Fail cabinet who struck a deal in 2002 to indemnify religious orders from legal action due to clerical child abuse. It has estimated that this deal which Smith’s cabinet signed off, has cost the state in the region of €1,500,000,000, yes folks Smith was party to actions that left the irish state liable for claims totalling €1.5 billion so far. 
Secondly, a serving member of the Irish Air Corps was knocked down and left for dead in a hit & run collision outside Templemore in October 1994 This man was badly injured suffering fractured eye sockets, haemorrhaged eyes, thirty fractures to his upper & lower jaws, his back was broken in four places, his hips were dislocated and his internal organs bruised.
This motorist drove over his head, did a U turn, stopped to look at him and then drove off leaving him to eventually fall into a coma.

The injured Air Corps technician, who had represented the Defence Forces as an athlete at national level, worked hard to make a good recovery . He subsequently attempted to carry out a fitness test required to extend his contract but the Air Corps refused to allow him take the fitness test saying he wasn’t medically fit to conduct the test.

The Air Corps technician sought the assistance of Minister Smith to intervene and overturn the decision to not allow him to conduct his fitness test but the minister never intervened and the airman was effectively sacked.

The motorist was charged with leaving the scene of an accident/crime by Gardai. The victim’s legal team called the Gardai seeking to know when the case was coming to court, as their client was obviously the chief witness, but the Gardai informed the victims legal team that no date was scheduled. 

It turns out that the information the Gardai passed to the victim’s legal team was untrue and the case went to court a few days subsequent to the phone call without the victim being present. With no witnesses the charges against the motorist were dismissed. 

By sheer coincidence the woman who knocked down the Air Corps technician and left him for dead happened to be a niece of Minister Michael Smith, the same minister who would not help him save his job. 

Do not give Paul Kehoe ANY preference in #GE2020

The Minister for Defence was informed  about ongoing unprotected toxic chemical exposures at Baldonnel in 2015 via numerous Protected Disclosures.

At the time the minister was warned that 8 men may have suffered untimely deaths due to chemical exposure.

After further research Kehoe was informed in 2018 that we had discovered a further 48 untimely deaths bringing the total to 56.

As of now January 2020 we have records of 77 untimely deaths of Irish Air Corps personnel. Some of these men died by their own hands and could have been saved if Kehoe intervened but he chose to do nothing.  Doing nothing meant that men continued to die unnecessarily.

A HSA investigation threatened legal action in 2016 unless the Air Corps complied with the Safety, Health and Welfare At Work Act, 1989 (updated 2005).

A sham “independent third party”  investigation by a retired barrister from the office of the Attorney General which was ordered by Kehoe found no evidence that the Air Corps had implemented any chemical health and safety prior to whistleblowers making complaints to the minster and the HSA. Kehoe could have sent in a chemical expert, Kehoe could have sent in a medical expert but Kehoe decided to send in a government barrister and pretended he was an independent third party.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing by the Air Corps Minister Kehoe never once expressed concern for former members of the service and never sought to ascertain the true health state of exposed serving and former personnel.

KEHOE MUST GO – KEHOE HAS BLOOD ON HIS HANDS

  • 77 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 64 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 40 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
Either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.
 

3 most significant causes of death

  • Approximately a third of deaths are from  cancer
  • Approximately a third of deaths are cardiac related
  • Approximately a fifth of deaths are from suicide
*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 50 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths or murder.

77 *Untimely deaths recorded of Irish Air Corps personnel

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 77 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 64 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 40 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
Either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.
 

3 most significant causes of death

  • Approximately a third of deaths are from  cancer
  • Approximately a third of deaths are cardiac related
  • Approximately a fifth of deaths are from suicide
*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 50 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths or murder.

74 Untimely deaths recorded in Irish Air Corps toxic chemical scandal

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 74 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 61 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 37 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
Either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.
 

3 most significant causes of death

  • Approximately a third of deaths are from  cancer
  • Approximately a third of deaths are from cardiac
  • Approximately a fifth of deaths are from suicide
*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 50 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths or murder.

73 Untimely deaths recorded in Irish Air Corps toxic chemical scandal

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 73 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 60 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 37 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
Either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.
 

3 most significant causes of death

  • Approximately a third of deaths are from  cancer
  • Approximately a third of deaths are from cardiac
  • Approximately a fifth of deaths are from suicide
*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 50 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths or murder.

72 Untimely deaths recorded in #IrishAirCorps toxic chemical scandal

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 72 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 59 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 36 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
Either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.
 

3 most significant causes of death

  • Approximately a third of deaths are from  cancer
  • Approximately a third of deaths are from cardiac
  • Approximately a fifth of deaths are from suicide
*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 49 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths or murder.

Irish Air Corps Health & Safety officer ordered evidence of Carbon Monoxide risks destroyed.

In 1995 the Irish Air Corps commissioned an independent third party organisation to carry out air quality testing in the Engine Repair Flight building. ERF comprised the Engine Overhaul facility, the Non Destructive Testing workshop and the Machine shop. Avionics Squadron was located in the same physical building as the ERF and the open attic spaces meant  chemical vapours & fumes from either unit were free to flow in either direction.

The Avionics / ERF building was also less than 20m downwind from the 3m high Spray Paint Shop exhaust stack which exhausted benzene, hexamethylene diisocyanate, toluene and xylene.

Ambient Air Monitoring for Health & Safety at Work Report from the 2nd of August 1995 found that #Dichloromethane (also known as Methylene chloride) was found in some areas to be 175ppm. At the time The most stringent health and safety limits for #DCM were 50 ppm (TWA for 8 hours) and 126 ppm (STEL for 15 minutes).

Personnel, including other ranks employed in the Formation Safety Office, were never informed of these results. Avionics / ERF personnel were left in situ for a further 12 years before the workshops were finally condemned & demolished and needlessly exposed to #DCM and other chemicals.

Significantly Dichloromethane metabolises as Carbon Monoxide once inhaled but is lethal in many other different ways.  We have at least 10 untimely deaths of men who worked in this building alone, their average age of death was 49.3 years and the youngest was only 32.

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So we have one state body warning the general public about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide, while another state body hid evidence of a known carbon monoxide threat from personnel working in a heavily contaminated facility.

Delay – Deny – Die

Samsung toxic chemical scandal Versus Irish Air Corps toxic chemical scandal

Samsung has apologised to employees who developed cancer at one of its computer chip manufacturing facilities following a ten-year legal battle.

The announcement comes after the company and a group representing ailing Samsung workers agreed to accept compensation terms and end a highly-publicised standoff. The company’s apology was part of the settlement.

Kim Ki-nam, the head of Samsung’s semiconductor business, said: “We sincerely apologise to the workers who suffered from illness and their families. We have failed to properly manage health risks at our semiconductor and LCD factories.”

Campaigners claim that 320 employees at Samsung have developed illnesses after being exposed to toxic chemicals at in its chip factories. They also claim that 118 people died as a result.

Read more on the Telegraph UK

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Here is a list of some of the chemicals used by Samsung and surprise, surprise all of them bar one were used by the Irish Air Corps in different hangars, labs & workshops at Baldonnel & Gormanston aerodromes.

In fact Trichloroethane was so “borrowed” by other units that almost every location at Baldonnel would send personnel up to the Engine Shop to  obtain some TRIKE in plastic Coca Cola bottles, milk cartons, aerosol lids or any other vessel capable of begging some of the liquid. Trike was used to clean, degrease or even just remove black marks off floors. 

This last usage meant that on at least 2 occasions floors in the Air Corps Training Depot were actually disolved in separate incidents years appart. One where old fashioned lino was dissolved back to the backing twine and another years later were a lecture room was mopped with a 25 litre drum of Trike that resulted in the vinyl floor tiles shrinking & curling up and the wall paint disolving & flowing off the walls onto the floor. 

ChemicalUsed By SamsungUsed By Air Corps
Trichloroethylene
aka TCE aka Trike
YesYes
DichromatesYesYes
DimethylacetamideYesYes
Thinners (containing Benzene, Toluene, Xylene).YesYes
Arsine YesNo
Sulphuric AcidYesYes
ResponseKim Ki-nam, the head of Samsung’s semiconductor business, said: "We sincerely apologise to the workers who suffered from illness and their families. We have failed to properly manage health risks at our semiconductor and LCD factories.”You were not exposed to toxic chemicals.
If you were exposed to toxic chemicals you should have worn the PPE provided.
You should have relied upon the Chemical Training provided.
You should have used common sense.

Note that the “independent third party” investigator, Christopher O’Toole, is a retired barrister from the office of the Attorney General (an office incidentally being sued by exposed personnel..so much for third party independence). O’Toole could find no documentation to back up the Air Corps / State Claims Agency claim that PPE was provided nor that Chemical Training was provided….simply because it WASNT…not until 2017 a full 2 years after the whistleblower’s protected disclosures.

Furthermore O’Toole DID NOT investigate ILLNESS, O’Toole DID NOT investigate CHEMICAL EXPOSURE. O’Toole only really investigated whether documentation to prove Air Corps compliance with Health & Safety legislation existed prior to 2015 and he could find NONE.

My expertise is in the area of law and in carrying out this review it was my intention to examine compliance by the Air Corps with the relevant law and regulation. I was not in a position to consider the substances in use or any implications for human health arising from such use as these issues are outside my competence. The allegations concern both the current health and safety regime and compliance with that regime in a period stretching back over 20 years.

Delay – Deny – Die

Mental Health and the Irish Air Corp illness cluster

A new report by Mental Health Reform, the national coalition on mental health in Ireland, has found strong public support for increased State investment in mental health services.

A survey carried out by the coalition found that 84% of respondents thought that the health service places too little focus on mental health.

The study found that the public are willing to invest more in mental healthcare when compared to other related healthcare programmes.

Mental Health Reform says staffing in mental health services is lower now than it was in 2008 and it is calling on the Government to boost investment in the area.

Note the graph below only includes personnel for whom we have death certificates for. We are in the process of verifying many more deaths, most of which relate to the earlier decades.

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Prevention is better than cure.

If the government bother to medically & scientifically investigate the mental health illness cluster at the #IrishAirCorps where at least 13 serving & former personnel have killed themselves since 1980 they might learn something about environmental causes & triggers of mental health problems.

We suspect hydrocarbon fuels, engine exhausts, isocyanates, VOCs etc all have a part to play and the civilian population get exposed to these too but usually at lower levels.

So far the state have only sent in barristers. Think about it 65 men dead at an average age of 49 years and all the state can mobilise is barristers.

In the absence of military or government statistics on untimely deaths in the Irish Air Corps we created our own. We are happy to have these tested or even proven wrong by better statistics gathered by the state in a comprehensive, open and transparent manner. #WeAreNotStatisticians

A message from the office of General Officer Commanding Air Corps

Having served as GOC AC for just over six months it is fair to say that I now have a new insight into the Air Corps and its people. Following on from the recent visit by Minister Kehoe, and my experience in the office to date, I can say with certainty and confidence that I am heartened by the dedication and professionalism of the Air Corps and its personnel, and the very reals individual commitment displayed by you all.

I make no secret of the fact that as an organisation SAFETY is our priority and I am very aware of the value and significance of your own individual contribution to this end. Each and every one of us has a direct responsibility when it comes to safety, and the culture we espouse to, and we must strive to do our very best to achieve this. I am conscious of the fine efforts of all with regard to this shared goal.

“Let there be no ambiguity the Air Corps has an excellent Safety Record”

Untimely deaths of serving and former Air Corps personnel are either increasing or we are missing earlier deaths. The statistics of untimely deaths quite clearly show that the GOC Air Corps is talking nonsense and misinforming the men & women under his command as well as members of the Oireachtas.

Let there be no ambiguity, the Air Corps has an excellent Safety Record and associated Health & Safety regime. We are at the forefront of industry when it comes to processes and standards. This is a real and direct result of the professionalism and expertise of our people and their commitment, and should not be underestimated by and of us.

Cleaning weapons after air firing at Waterford July 2018. Inadequate PPE – Skin, Eyes & Respiratory exposure all in breach of MSDS

I am fully aware that not everything is perfect and we still have a journey to go. With this in mind I want to re-emphasise that when we see a need for change and development that we drive that from within. My message is clear, we all have a duty to drive this progress and you are all empowered to take ownership, and indeed action, when required. Whether it’s the need for specific equipment or a course of training, don’t ignore it and move on , make it happen. It is only with this attitude and outlook that we will be truly successful in our quest. You have my backing and my confidence in this regard.

When a full time Health & Safety enforcement official was requested Air Corps management responded that his could not be economically justified. With 63 men dead, management cannot justify a full time Health & Safety enforcement official but can continue to justify a full time Catholic chaplain costing approximately €60,000 per annum.

Refueling in July 2017, skin and eyes exposed to fuel splashes. Respiratory exposure to kerosene & FSII fumes, aerosols & vapors.

In closing, I am filed with pride on a daily basis when I see the dedication and commitment of our people. Your work and your actions make a real and tangible contribution to the State and its Citizens. and this should never be undervalued. I truly hope that you share in this pride and continue to demonstrate the admirable ethos and values that define the Air Corps

Sean Clancy
Brigadier General
General Officer Commanding the Air Corps

January 2018

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DELAY – DENY – DIE