10th January 2021
Dear Deputy Berry,
Exactly six months ago on the 10th of June 2020, I wrote a registered letter to you asking for your assistance obtaining medical interventions for chronically ill Irish Air Corps personnel in an effort to reduce unnecessary suffering & untimely deaths.
I am disappointed that after six months I have had absolutely no response or follow up to this letter, not even an basic acknowledgement of receipt.
As a former Defence Forces officer and as a medical doctor I hoped that you were best placed to both understand & champion in the Oireachtas the best interests of those suffering a multitude of health effects from decades of unprotected toxic chemical exposure in what HSA inspectors told me was “the worst case of chemical misuse in the history of the state”.
As I have not heard from you I can only assume that I was wrong and that you either simply do not believe there are any health problems suffered by serving & former Air Corps personnel due workplace chemical exposure, or worse still, you acknowledge personnel have been injured but have no interest in helping them.
I would be grateful if you could please reply publicly to this open letter and while doing so could please answer the following.
- Do you believe Irish Air Corps survivors when they tell you that the Health & Safety Authority found serious non compliance with the Safety, Health & Welfare At Work Act 2005 in relation to basic chemical health & safety at Casement Aerodrome and that the same HSA threatened prosecution if their “advice” was not complied with?
- Do you accept that the Safety, Health and Welfare At Work Acts 1989 & 2005 were enacted by the state to protect workers from injuries and if an organisation failed to implement these same Acts for decades after they were enacted then the likelihood of injury to personnel is increased?
- If you do accept that the Irish Air Corps was not in compliance with the Safety, Health and Welfare At Work Acts 1989 & 2005 and if you do accept that health and safety legislation is enacted to protect workers can you please explain why you have done nothing publically to raise awareness of the Irish Air Corps chemical exposure tragedy since you were elected to Dáil Eireann almost 1 year ago and why you have not mentioned it even once in your numerous chamber utterances or press releases.
I look forward to your response, if any.
Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors
Please find linked below a copy of my original letter to you and also a copy of the Health & Safety letter to the Air Corps dated October 2016 outlining urgent steps to be taken threatening legal action if they are ignored. The HSA letter was obtained under FOI.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
QUESTION NO: 897
To ask the Minister for Health his plans to carry out a full health audit of former members of all branches of the Defence Forces with a view to extending a full medical card to all retired Defence Forces members. [38583/20]
Stephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
Under the provisions of the Health Act 1970 (as amended), eligibility for health services in Ireland is based primarily on residency and means. The Act provides that persons who are unable, without undue hardship, to arrange GP services for themselves and dependents can qualify for full eligibility (a medical card). The HSE awards medical cards in accordance with the Health Act and assesses applicants on the overall financial situation of the applicant and his or her spouse or dependent.
Every effort is made by the HSE, within the framework of the legislation, to support applicants in applying for a medical card and, in particular, to take full account of any difficult circumstances in the case of applicants who may be in excess of the income guidelines. Social and medical issues are also considered when determining whether undue hardship exists for an individual accessing general practitioner or other medical services and to that end, the HSE may exercise discretion and grant a medical card where an applicant exceeds his or her income threshold. Currently, more than 32% of the population hold eligibility for a medical card.
All persons who are ordinarily resident in the state can apply to the HSE to be determined whether eligible for a medical card.
DELAY – DENY – DIE
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has today reiterated his call for the Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe to establish a formal investigation into the health effects of years of exposure to toxic chemicals on Irish Air Corps personnel
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of current and former members of the Irish Air Corps (both civilian & military) were exposed to a vast cocktail of highly dangerous workplace chemicals including carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxicants and immune sensitisers.
Teachta Ó Snodaigh said;
“The failure of the Air Corps management to implement even the most basic chemical safety provisions possibly resulted in considerable physical and mental health injury to exposed personnel.
“The exposure to toxic chemicals for decades appears from figures collated by former Air Corps personnel to have contributed to a very high number of fatalities from a variety of rare and complex cancers, cardiovascular disease and suicides, and also high rates of miscarriage of partners.
“For 20 years, military authorities ignored recommendations from safety reports and only acted when their failure to act was highlighted by whistleblowers.
Read full press release on Sinn Féin website below…
Please view the honourable & fair demands of
Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors here.
- 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
- 25 of these deaths have occured since the Minister for Defence was notified by Protected Disclosure in 2015
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 (15)
*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.
Delay – Deny – Die