DELAY – Irish Air Corps Chemical Deaths Mickey Mouse Inquiry

It is now over three years since whistle-blowers lifted the lid on issues in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

Five years have passed since the first personal injury claim against the State was lodged in the High Court.

The Irish Examiner reports that first highlighted these issues were published over two years ago.

With some exceptions, very little progress has been made in addressing the concerning matters at the heart of this scandal in the intervening period.

Writing in this newspaper last year, columnist Michael Clifford noted how there are two categories of inquiry frequently undertaken by a State agency or government organ.

“The standard inquiry is designed to find out whether something went wrong, how it happened, and who may be responsible,” he wrote.

“The other category frequently used, we shall refer to as the Mickey Mouse inquiry. This is designed to respond to a controversy.

“Turning over stones and digging for information is not the primary function of a Mickey Mouse inquiry.

“Instead, the main focus is to present the inquiry as an exhibit to show that something, anything, is being done,” he said.

Mr Clifford was referring to an inquiry into allegations by a Prison Service whistle-blower and recalled the initial attempts to “investigate” issues raised by Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

But he could easily have been referring to the lip service the Government has paid to serious allegations raised by Air Corps whistle-blowers, some ex-Defence Forces, and one still serving.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Delay, deny, and die: The official response to Air Corps chemical exposure fears

The Dáil is set to debate the establishment of a special committee to conduct hearings into the possible health effects of toxic chemical exposure among Air Corps personnel, after two years of revelations in the Irish Examiner, with TDs expected to back the investigation before the summer. Joe Leogue looks at what has brought us to this point.

It also calls for measures, including medical cards, “to address the health needs of personnel that have been exposed to hazardous chemicals, and extend these measures to any civilians affected and to students who may be affected while on work experience”.

The move comes years after whistleblower allegations, court cases, and revelations in this newspaper that have prompted many questions.

There are some who believe those in positions of power are happy to leave those questions unanswered.

Those who believe that Air Corps technicians are seriously ill because they suffered undue exposure to harmful chemicals while working in Casement Aerodrome say the Government response to their concerns can be summed up by “three Ds”.

Delay – Deny- Die

Delay any meaningful investigation into their claims; deny there is an issue; and finally, wait for these sick troublemakers to die and stop rocking the boat.

Truth be told, nothing the Government — or successive ministers for defence — have done in recent years would dispel anyone of that notion.

French court upholds guilty verdict against Monsanto over poisoning of farmer who used its weedkiller

A FRENCH COURT has upheld a guilty verdict against chemical giant Monsanto over the poisoning of a farmer who suffered neurological damage after using one of its weedkillers.

Irish Air Corps – Non Destructive Testing Facility – 17th December 2007

Cereal farmer Paul Francois has been fighting Monsanto, a former US company which was bought by Germany’s Bayer last year, for the past 12 years. In the first ruling of its kind against Monsanto anywhere in the world, a French court in 2012 found it guilty of poisoning Francois.

He said he began experiencing symptoms including blackouts, headaches and loss of balance and memory after inhaling fumes while using the now-banned weedkiller Lasso.

Monsanto appealed and lost in 2015. However, it decided to go a third round. “I won, and I’m happy, but at what cost?” Francois told reporters after the verdict. He denounced what he called years of “legal harassment” by Monsanto.

‘Not a chemist’

Francois said he fell ill in 2004 after accidentally inhaling fumes from a vat containing Lasso, a monochlorobenzene-based weedkiller that was legal in France until 2007. However, it had already been banned in 1985 in Canada and in 1992 in Belgium and Britain.

He argued that Monsanto was aware of Lasso’s dangers long before it was withdrawn from the French market, and sought damages of more than €1 million for chronic neurological damage that required long hospital stays.

The court in Lyon, southeastern France, rejected the company’s appeal but did not rule on how much Monsanto might have to pay, which will be determined in a separate ruling. It did order the company to pay €50,000 immediately for Francois’s legal fees.

In its ruling, the court found that Monsanto should have clearly indicated on Lasso’s labelling and instructions for use “a notice on the specific dangers of using the product in vats and reservoirs”.

The plaintiff’s assumed technical knowledge does not excuse the lack of information on the product and its harmful effects – a farmer is not a chemist.

Read full article on the Journal website below…

*****

French judges appear to show common sense. The State Claims Agency has managed to successfully argue in an Irish Court that military aircraft mechanics in the Irish Air Corps with ZERO medical training were able to diagnose themselves with chemical injure thus starting the statute clock and allowing a case to be dismissed as statute barred.

The State Claims Agency argued that an Air Corps technician attending a doctor and asking “did chemicals harm me” and doctor replying “maybe or maybe not” means the technician had “knowledge” that the chemicals had  actually harmed him.

As we appeal up the food chain of the Irish Judicial system common sense will prevail against the financial & legal might that is the State Claims Agency.  Right is Might.

Delay – Deny – Die

Airlines face lawsuits over ‘toxic’ cabin air

Five of the UK’s largest airlines are facing legal action which claims pilots and cabin crew are regularly exposed to toxic fumes during flights.

The Unite union said legal notice has been served in 51 cases, the majority of which are against British Airways.

EasyJet, Thomas Cook, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic are also subject to the legal action over “aerotoxic syndrome”.

The airlines said that previous studies found no proof of long-term ill-health arising from cabin air quality.

The Unite union, which represents airline staff, claims pilots and crew are exposed to frequent “fume events” when air drawn into the aircraft becomes contaminated by toxic compounds.

The union says the fumes, which originate from the oil used to lubricate the jet engines, contain organophosphates and TCP, and that long-term exposure can lead to chronic ill-health and life-threatening conditions.

“Independent expert evidence concludes that air on board jet planes can contain a toxic mix of chemicals and compounds that potentially damage the nervous system and may lead to chronic irreversible health problems in susceptible individuals,” said Unite’s assistant general secretary for legal services, Howard Beckett.

“The airline industry cannot continue to hide from the issue of toxic cabin air whilst placing the health and safety of aircrew at risk.”

‘No safety risk’

British Airways responded that “none of the substantial research conducted over many years” had shown a link between cabin air quality and ill-health.

“We would never operate an aircraft if we believed it posed a health or safety risk to our customers or crew,” British Airways said.

It also pointed to research by the regulator, the European Aviation Safety Agency, which concluded that the aircraft air quality was “similar or better than that observed in normal indoor environments”.

Inquiry

As well as backing the legal action, the union is calling for an inquiry into the safety of cabin air. It suggests different oils could be used to lubricate engines that are less likely to leak toxic fumes.

It is calling for better monitoring of cabin air and the installation of air filters.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

See list of Aerotoxic Symptoms below…

“Toxic air” claims: Industry “not looking for the evidence”

*****

These cases may be very significant for Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors.

Delay – Deny – Die

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.

Army officer’s case over report resolved after High Court proceedings withdrawn

A High Court action by a senior army officer over the State’s refusal to provide him with an independent report into his allegations of corruption and misconduct within the military has been resolved, and the case withdrawn.

The action was brought by the Defence Forces Head of Legal Services Colonel Jerry Lane against the Minister for Defence, Ireland and the Attorney General.

When the case commenced this week, the court heard the proceedings arose over concerns raised by Col Lane several years ago that preferential treatment was being afforded to another member of the Defence Forces to the detriment of other members.

Counsel said in 2010, his client attempted to raise the issue of the other officer’s alleged preferential treatment through the chain of military command, but claimed that nothing was done.

Col Lane’s concerns were that the other officer was selected for, but ultimately did not get, a senior position which Col Lane claimed the other person was ineligible for.

Col Lane, from Bandon, Co Cork, made a protected disclosure to members of Seanad Éireann regarding his concerns which were raised in the Seanad in 2011.

Arising out of the disclosure, he claims he was subjected to a range of penalties, including threats of dismissal and involuntary retirement from the Defence Forces, but those threats were subsequently set aside.

Number of cases being defended by Department of Defence against former staff rises to eight

The Department of Defence has confirmed that the number of cases it is defending against former Defence Forces staff over chemical exposure in the Air Corps has risen to eight.

Detail of the new case emerged as Sinn Fein prepares a motion calling for Oireachtas inquiry into the health and safety management at Air Corps headquarters at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

In January 2017, this newspaper revealed how the Department of Defence had received a number of protected disclosures from whistleblowers alleging serious shortcomings in how Air Corps maintenance staff were protected from exposure to cancer-causing substances.

We also reported how, at the time, six former members who suffer a range of chronic illnesses, took High Court action against the State over what they said was a failure to train them properly on the dangers of the chemicals they used, or to provide them with adequate personal protective equipment.

These six former members had received the opinion of a toxicopathologist who linked their illnesses to their working conditions.

The Department has now confirmed that the number of cases has risen to eight, and this newspaper understands that a number of others are considering similar action.

Call for inquiry into allegations members of Defence Forces suffered due to toxic chemical exposure

The Dáil is to consider establishing a special Oireachtas inquiry into claims that Defence Forces personnel suffered serious health consequences over decades as a result of toxic chemical exposure – allegations first revealed by the Irish Examiner.

They believe these exposures could have caused the deaths and serious illnesses of former staff.

These whistle-blowers also submitted a complaint to the Health and Safety Authority, who inspected conditions at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel and threatened legal action against the Defence Forces unless it made improvements in how Air Corps staff are protected from the effects of the toxic chemicals.

Meanwhile, the State is defending seven personal injury claims from former Air Corps members who have been told by a toxico-pathologist that their chronic illnesses were caused by their exposure to chemicals used in the line of duty.

The Government first received protected disclosures from whistleblowers in December 2015, and an independent report on the claims found appropriate records to demonstrate the Air Corps compliance with health and safety standards “are not readily available.”

However, despite receiving that report in the summer of 2017, no subsequent action has been taken by the Government, nearly two years later.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

*****

There have been 22 untimely deaths of Irish Air Corps serving & former personnel since the first health and safety related protected disclosure was made to Simon Coveney in December 2015.

This Fine Gael government appear quite happy to sit back and let our colleagues die. At least 3 of the 22 deaths were suicides and therefore preventable.

Delay – Deny – Die

Whistleblower feels ‘left out on a limb’ by minister

An Air Corps whistleblower, leaving the Defence Forces, feels “left out on a limb” by the minister to whom he appealed for help, the Dáil has heard.

Last month, the Irish Examiner revealed that the serving member wrote to the Defence Forces chief of staff to inform him of a decision to retire early over what was claimed was the authority’s failure to protect him from persecution as a result of concerns he had raised.

Last November, the whistleblower wrote to Paul Kehoe, the junior defence minister, complaining of the “unwarranted treatment” he had received after submitting a protected disclosure on health and safety issues.

The whistleblower is one of a number who has raised concerns over Air Corps staff exposure to cancer-causing chemicals while servicing and maintaining aircraft. The State is fighting seven personal injury cases being taken by former Air Corps members suffering chronic illnesses they say were caused by exposure suffered during their service.

The whistleblower’s early retirement was raised in the Dáil by Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley, who asked Mr Kehoe what action, if any, he had taken on receiving correspondence from the member last November.

Mr Buckley said: “No action was taken on foot of a letter dated 28 November 2018 appealing for the Minister of State’s intervention and asking what protection he was giving to this serving member at the time. What actions were taken on foot of the original protected disclosure?

Mr Kehoe said he would leave the matter in the hands of the Ombudsman. “I will not stand over anybody being wronged. I encourage the person to whom the deputy is referring to go to the Defence Forces Ombudsman. He or she may have done so but I assure the deputy the case will be dealt with in an independent and fair way. The ombudsman provides that facility in an independent way.”

Unfortunately, this person has left the service because of the way he has been treated. He believes he has been let down. He has served his country with distinction. He thought he was doing the right thing by disclosing what was going on but he is now in a position where he cannot keep his job which will affect him in many other ways.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

*****

The last thing Minister Kehoe wants is more whistle-blowers feeling it is safe to make further protected disclosures about wrongdoing at the Irish Air Corps. By “passing the buck” Minister Kehoe’s non intervention is allowing the ongoing victimisation of of Air Corps personnel.

Said ombudsman will probably be invited to visit Baldonnel and then wined & dined in the Officers Mess by the perpertrators of the greatest workplace health & safety tragedy in modern Irish history.

That is of course unless he hasn’t been invited already.

Delay – Deny – Die