State accused of shredding documents now central to legal case

A Defence Forces whistle-blower has alleged that a named official ordered the shredding of documents that are now central to a legal case against the State.

Despite the claim, junior defence minister Paul Kehoe says he has no plans to investigate how documents went missing, despite only being able to offer “speculative” reasons for their disappearance.

Six former members of the Air Corps have taken High Court action against the State, claiming it failed in its duty of care to protect them from the harmful effect of the toxic chemicals they used on a daily basis while working in maintenance at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, Co Dublin.

All six now suffer chronic illnesses, and a toxico-pathologist has given his medical opinion that these conditions were developed as a result of their exposure to these chemicals.

The Irish Examiner understands that further cases will be brought against the State, which has denied liability in all six instances to date.

Central to all the claims is the question of whether the State took all reasonable steps possible to protect the workers. However, health and safety inspection reports published in the 1990s — at a time when all six of the claimants worked in Casement Aerodrome — have gone missing.

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No record of Air Corps health probe

The Defence Forces still has the invoice it received for a health inspection carried out on the Air Corps in 1997 — but not the report outlining the findings of the probe.

The State is being sued by at least six former members of the Air Corps, who claim their exposure to harmful chemicals caused their chronic illnesses.

Those taking the cases claim there was negligence on behalf of the State, which failed to provide them with the adequate protections or training.

However, the State has denied liability, and in one case stated that “no admission is made that the defendants exposed the plaintiff to dangerous chemicals or solvents whether on an ongoing basis or at all”.

The cases have been brought by men who worked in the Air Corps workshops from the late 80s up to the early 2000s.

It has been claimed health and safety inspections in the 1990s raised concerns about the working environment at Casement Aerodrome — however, the reports sent to the Defence Forces arising from these inspections now “cannot be located”.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website