Dáil Éireann – 4th July 2019 – Public Accounts Committee – Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Exposure

Catherine Murphy T.D. (Kildare North)Public Accounts Committee

Watch Deputy Catherine Murphy question Mr. Ciaran Breen, Director of the State Claims Agency and Mr. Pat Kirwan,  Head of Enterprise Risk, also at the State Claims Agency, about the failure of a decade of Risk Management Section, Heath & Safety Management System audits at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

The State Claims Agency audits at Baldonnel commenced in 2006 and continued as the Irish Air Corps were investigated by the Health & Safety Authority in 2016 for serious breaches of the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005. Breaches that including the very basic failure to provide PPE or chemical training.

It took the threat of legal action by the Health & Safety Authority as well as 2 years & 9 months of intervention to finally close the HSA file on what their own inspectors described as the most serious case of chemical misuse in the history of the state.

It should be noted that the State Claims Agency were not only aware from 2013 that the unprotected chemical exposures at Baldonnel were an ONGOING LIVE ISSUE, but bizarrely failed to intervene to prevent further exposure once this knowledge was in their possession.

It took the actions of three whistle-blowers in 2015 to bring the ongoing toxic chemical Health & Safety failures at the Irish Air Corps to the attention of the Minister for Defence and also to the attention of the Health & Safety Authority.

Why did the State Claims Agency fail to notice the high rate of untimely mortality, the high rate of suicide, the high rate of sick leave, the lack of PPE records and the lack of any chemical training records in 10 years of supposed audits.

Why did the State Claims Agency fail to act in 2013 when they did become aware that personnel were still being needlessly exposed to dangerous chemicals without PPE and without any chemical safety training?

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 12/06/19 – Irish Air Corps – Health & Safety

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

QUESTION NO: 75

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence when he first received the report on the findings of the independent third party appointed to investigate protected disclosures relating to chemical exposure in the Air Corps; the steps he has taken to act on its findings since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24571/19]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

Three written disclosures were made, in November and December 2015 and January 2016, under the provisions of section 8 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, relating to alleged failings in the Defence Organisation in the area of Health and Safety. Legal advice was sought on how best to progress certain disclosures as elements related to matters which are the subject of the ongoing litigation. As the Deputy will be aware, the State Claims Agency is currently managing nine claims taken against the Minister for Defence, for personal injuries alleging exposure to chemical and toxic substance whilst working in the Air Corps in the period 1991 to 2006.

I appointed an independent reviewer to examine the disclosures. Following receipt of the report of the independent reviewer, which was submitted to me on 19 June, 2016, I invited the views of those who had made the disclosures and published the report. I also sent the report to the Chief of Staff for the views and actions of the military authorities to be set out.

In parallel to the independent review, following an inspection in 2016, the Air Corps had continued to work with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to improve its health and safety regime. I have been informed by the military authorities that the HSA has formally noted the considerable progress made to-date by the Defence Forces towards implementation of a safety management system for the control of hazardous substances. Subject to completion of the improvement plan the HSA investigation is closed. However, it must be noted that in the Air Corps health and safety is a matter of ongoing monitoring, supervision and adjustment.

The matter of the disclosures is receiving consideration in the context of the responses I received from the parties and legal advices in the context of ongoing active litigation…..blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah 18 22 men dead since Minister for Defence first notified minister considering report for a year 2-years now. 

DELAY – DENY – DIE

  1. Minister for Defence was first notified of ongoing Health & Safety issues at Irish Air Corps in November 2015.
  2. Twenty Two men have died since this date, three by their own hand. Some of these men could have been saved.
  3. There has been ZERO medical assistance offered to Air Corps survivors.
  4. There has been ZERO assessment of the chemical exposure effects to even serving personnel.
  5. Minister Kehoe is happy to let serving and former Air Corps personnel die while he takes 2 years to consider his next step.
  6. Meanwhile the State Claims Agency who were awarding the Air Corps awards for excellence in Health & Safety while they actively poisoned personnel are frustrating legal cases by tying them up in appeals.
  7. Tune in next year for another bullshit reply in the Dail from Paul Kehoe.

Hearings needed into Air Corps whistle-blower claims – Ó Snodaigh

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called for an Oireachtas inquiry into the claims made by Air Corps whistle-blowers that Defence Forces personnel suffered serious health consequences over decades as a result of toxic chemical exposure.

Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:

“I have drafted a Dáil motion calling for the establishment of a special Oireachtas committee to conduct relevant hearings into the claims made by Air Corps whistle-blowers and I will be seeking cross party support for it.”

“Informal research made by one of the whistle-blowers, provided to the Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe, raises questions over a number of deaths of former serving Air Corps personnel. Currently 73 deaths have occurred to personnel aged under 66 with the average age of 50.”

“The research has pointed to an unexplained, higher than normal concentration of very rare illnesses among relatively young former Air Corps personnel. They have called for a full health survey of serving and former Air Corps members, and those who worked in the Aerodrome to be carried out.”

“The aim of survey would be to try and quantify fully the scale and range of the health issue which they have linked to daily exposure to dangerous, corrosive and carcinogenic chemicals in areas of the Air Corps base.”

“The State was aware of these concerns following a number of reports Health and Safety drafted as early as the 1990s which highlighted dangerous working conditions and chemical exposures in Casement Aerodrome, in Baldonnel, County Dublin, which were not acted on.”

Please read the press release in full on the Sinn Féin website.

http://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/52575

*****

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Debates Other Questions 17/1/19 – Defence Forces Equipment

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

QUESTION NO: 11

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if all Defence Forces and Air Corps officers are trained in the use of respirators and-or breathing apparatus in the context of handling chemicals and toxic material; if the use of same is now mandatory; and the date on which it became mandatory. [1803/19]

This question relates to the change in the health and safety regime brought about in recent years because of disclosures from whistle-blowers, which have led to changes in health and safety in the Air Corps in particular. Are all Defence Forces and Air Corps officers trained in the use of respirators and breathing apparatus in the context of handling chemicals and toxic material which, in the past, were wrongly handled and possibly exposed people to poisoning and ill-health?

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I am advised by the military authorities that all members of the Defence Forces are trained in the fitting of the general service respirator as part of their basic training and that tests of elementary training are conducted annually in a respirator test facility. This training is in keeping with chemical, biological, radioactive and neurological (WTF?) training that all Defence Forces personnel undergo following basic training.

I am further advised by the military authorities that only those Defence Forces personnel who are required to work with chemicals and toxins are required to undergo respiratory protective equipment training. Such training is provided to members of the Defence Forces in accordance with the relevant health and safety legislation.

With regard to the Air Corps, I am advised that it uses two types of respiratory protective equipment depending on the type of activity being carried out. These are respirators, which are air purifying, and breathing apparatus, through which air is supplied. I am advised that personnel who require respiratory protective equipment training are trained as necessary.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

I welcome the Minister of State’s statement but part of the question was when did it become mandatory. The final part of the reply seems to suggest that not all Air Corps personnel are trained in the use of respirators. When exactly did it become mandatory for all Defence Force personnel to have this training? Is the training in full use currently?

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

With regard to the Air Corps, I am surprised that people who specifically deal with chemicals are trained in the wearing of respirators only if they are involved in dealing with these types of chemicals. Full training is given to these people and they undergo relevant retraining to ensure they are fully trained.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

The question is when that happened.

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I do not have a specific date but to my knowledge full training is carried out in line with what is required. I will come back to the Deputy with a specific date.

*****

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 23/10/18 – Department of Defence – Air Corps Health Monitoring

Jack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)

QUESTION NO: 172

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the changes in health and safety policies that have been implemented following the publication of the report of the independent reviewer, protected disclosures, Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43404/18]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have sought the information from the military authorities and will revert to the Deputy when it is to hand.

 

Jack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)

QUESTION NO: 173

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a programme that monitors actual exposure of Defence Forces members to hazardous substances either via personal air monitoring or biological monitoring as outlined in the report of the independent reviewer, protected disclosures, Air Corps is in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43405/18]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have sought the information from the military authorities and I will revert to the Deputy when it is available.

 

14th November 2018

Mr Jack Chambers, T.D.,
Dail Eireann,
Leinster House,
Dublin 2.
Dear Deputy,

You will recall my recent-replies to written Parliamentary-Questions 43-404/18 and 43405/18, wherein I advised you that I had sought the requested information from the military authorities and that I would revert to you when it was to hand.

I have now received the aforementioned information from the military authorities. At the outset I would like to advise you that while the exposure monitoring programme is referenced in the June, 2017 report of the independent reviewer, it is actually outlined (as a recommendation) in the Health & Safety Authority’s Report of Inspection to the Air Corps dated 21 October, 2016, which followed three inspections by the HSA at Casement Aerodrome during 2016.

The resultant Air Corps improvement plan confirmed the Air Corps’ full commitment to implementing improved safety measures that protect workers and ensure risks are as low as reasonably practicable. The plan was implemented over eight phases, seven of which the military authorities have advised are now complete, while phase 8 – Chemical awareness training and respiratory equipment training – is a continuous, ongoing process.

Phase 7 comprised a review of the Defence Forces policy on hazardous substances. This policy was subsequently amended in September, 2017 and, inter alia, describes the Defence Forces methodology for the assessment of risk arising from the transport, storage and disposal of hazardous substances. The new policy also provides guidance for military personnel. civilian employees and other relevant persons on the risk assessment process and control and measures to be implemented to reduce the risk of injury from the use, transport, storage and disposal of hazardous substances to a level that is as low as reasonably practicable.

Insofar as a programme that monitors exposure to hazardous substances is concerned, I am advised by the military authorities that the Air Corps have conducted and continue to conduct air monitoring studies at Casement Aerodrome and that the Air Corps are currently planning further air monitoring  studies in targeted areas next year.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Kehoe, T.D.,
Minister with responsibility for Defence

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 15/01/19 – Irish Air Corps – State Claims Agency Bonus Pay

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

QUESTION NO: 217

To ask the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 146 of 18 December 2018, if the National Treasury Management Agency will provide a breakdown of all discretionary performance related payments in tabular form (details supplied); the highest discretionary performance related payments made to a single employee in each of the years 2006 to 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied- Email sent 07/01/19 at 14:57) to include the details of discretionary performance-related payments for the following years 2006 to 2012 inclusive to include the overall total amount of remuneration and the number of employees per year that shared extra remuneration; and if the NTMA will indicate the highest discretionary performance-related payments made to a single employee in each years. 1179/19

Paschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)

The response to the deputy is set out in the table.

YearTotal Bonus PayNumber of Benefiting EmployeesAverage per Benefiting EmployeeHighest Individual Bonus Pay
2006€2,807,229116€24,200
€377,000
2007€3,165,551138€22,939
€403,000
2008€3,459,751161€21,489€395,500
2009€2,751,361167€16,475€200,000
2010€1,981,760258€6,945€40,000
2011€62,6105€12,522€30,000
2012€43,1006€7,183€25,000

Notes

  • In respect of the years 2006-2010, the details provided have been compiled by the NTMA following the retrieval and review of available historical hard-copy documentation.
  • Details of the total amount paid in discretionary performance related pay along with the number of staff in receipt of these payments have been published in the NTMA Annual Report for the years 2010 to 2017 (the NTMA’s most recent Annual Report).

*****

State Claims Agency audited the Health & Safety Management Systems of the Irish Air Corps for a decade before the Health & Safety Authority intervened to prevent serious ongoing harm to Air Corps personnel. 

Over the course of this decade of auditing, the “risk profile” of the Irish Air Corps improved year on year. These “paperwork” improvements in risk profile were subsequently part of the remuneration process for personnel in the State Claims Agency and the National Treasury Management Agency

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 15/01/19 – Irish Air Corps – State Claims Agency

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

QUESTION NO: 133

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the health and safety management system reports and or audits carried out on the Air Corps by the State Claims Agency in each of the years 2006 to 2015; the year and author of each report and or audit in the timeframe; if the reports have been published and or classified as confidential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. 1180/19

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I am advised by the State Claims Agency that it has a statutory remit under the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act 2000 to provide risk management advices to Delegated State Authorities. Such risk management advices include the provision of Health & Safety Management System audits, inspections and reviews.

From this, State Claims Agency conducted a number of Health & Safety Management System Defence Forces audits within the Air Corps between the years 2006 – 2015. The Reports are authored by the State Claims Agency and are confidential between the Agency and their Client.

*****

The State Claims Agency audited the Irish Air Corps for a decade before the Health & Safety Authority were forced to intervene and stop the ongoing CMR & toxic chemical exposure of the Baldonnel workforce.

The HSA file was opened in January 2016 and was only closed in September 2018 but the “superb” health and safety performance of the Air Corps for the decade prior to HSA intervention helped the State Claims Agency & NTMA staff earn discretionary performance-related payments.

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 18/12/18 – Department of Finance – State Claims Agency Bonus Pay

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

QUESTION NO: 146

To ask the Minister for Finance if staff at the State Claims Agency receive discretionary performance related payments; the amount paid to staff from 2006 to date; if these payments related to particular projects and or audits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. 53022/18

Paschal Donohoe  (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)

When performing its statutory functions regarding claims against the State, the National Treasury Management Agency is known as the State Claims Agency.

The NTMA have informed me that discretionary performance-related payments are intended to reward exceptional performance having regard to the employee’s own performance, the performance of the employee’s area of responsibility, and the overall performance of the NTMA. Performance related payments are made in accordance with parameters approved by the Agency’s non-executive Remuneration Committee.

The NTMA have also informed me that it provides details of performance related payments made each year to all NTMA staff in its annual reports which are available on the NTMAs website through the following link

http://www.ntma.ie/publications

*****

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 18/12/18 – Irish Air Corps – State Claims Agency Audits

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

QUESTION NO: 119

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the State Claims Agency supplied the Health and Safety Authority with copies of its audits and or reports regarding the Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. 53026/18

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have been advised by the State Claims Agency that it does not provide reports of Health and Safety Management System Audits conducted by the Agency in Delegated State Authorities (including the Defence Forces) to the Health and Safety Authority. I am advised that these are provided to the Delegated State Authorities only.

With regard to the Air Corps, the Deputy will be aware that the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), following a number of inspections in 2016, issued a Report of Inspection to the Air Corps on the 21st October 2016, listing a number of matters requiring attention which included the areas of risk assessment.

The Air Corps as a consequence of this HSA report have implemented an improvement plan which is being conducted over eight phases. Seven of the eight phases have now been fully completed. The final phase is a continuous on-going process. The implementation plan focuses on a number of areas, including risk assessment.

I wish to assure the Deputy that the health and welfare of the Defence Forces personnel is a high priority for me and the military authorities.

*****

For 10 years BEFORE the Heath & Safety Authority were forced to investigate the Irish Air Corps, due to the ongoing safety risks to personnel, the State Claims Agency had been carrying out Health & Safety Risk Management System audits at Baldonnel. 

In the eyes of the State Claims Agency the Irish Air Corps risk profile was continuously improving whilst personnel on the ground were still being exposed to toxic & CMR chemicals without appropriate PPE or training causing lifelong injures to themselves and their children. 

It is now obvious that the State Claims Agency audits were incompetent  especially considering it took the Health & Safety Authority 2 years and 9 months to close their investigation file on the Irish Air Corps.

The State Claims Agency audits need to be released to the Oireachtas without delay.

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 18/12/18 – Irish Air Corps – Legal Cases

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

QUESTION NO: 117

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of open cases the State Claims Agency is handling in respect of the Air Corps, its staff and former staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. 53027/18

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I am advised by the State Claims Agency that their reports indicate that currently the Agency is managing 21 active compensation claims in respect of the Air Corps where it is alleged that a staff member is the injured party.

Given that litigation is on-going, the Deputy will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment further in relation to these claims.

*****

Considering the limited media coverage of this scandal to date, this figure can only be expected to climb as serving & former personnel become aware that their ongoing health issues are likely a result of unprotected toxic chemical exposure whilst serving in the Irish Air Corps.

DELAY – DENY – DIE