An official tasked with reviewing whistle-blower allegations of chemical exposure within the Air Corps was not given access to the Defence Forces’ own report on the claims, the Government has confirmed.
Six former Air Corps staff are suing the State, claiming their exposure to chemicals while in the Defence Forces caused cancers and other chronic illnesses they now suffer.
Meanwhile, three whistleblowers came forward to allege health and safety mismanagement within the Air Corps, in the years up to 2016. A subsequent inspection by the Health and Safety Authority confirmed many of the complaints outlined in the whistleblowers’ protected disclosures.
A Freedom of Information request earlier this year from Deputy Aengus O’Snodaigh had revealed Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe had been given a copy of a report entitled “Chemical Exposure Report (1994-2005)”.
The Department of Defence, meanwhile, tasked former civil servant Christopher O’Toole with reviewing claims from three whistleblowers who alleged the health of dozens of Air Corps staff may have been seriously compromised by exposure to chemicals used to clean and service aircraft.
In his report, however, Mr O’Toole concluded the terms of reference he was given had been ‘impractical’, and noted that appropriate records to demonstrate the Air Corps complied with health and safety regulations “are not readily available”.
This week, the Sinn Féin TD subsequently asked Mr Kehoe whether Mr O’Toole was provided with a copy of the “Chemical Exposure Report (1994-2005)”.
Mr Kehoe said it would not have been “appropriate” to give the report to Mr O’Toole. “As the report is subject to legal privilege, it was not appropriate to make it available to the independent reviewer,” the minister said.
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