Air corps whistleblower was ‘isolated, vilified’

An air corps whistle-blower has written to the Defence Forces Chief of Staff to inform him of his decision to retire early over what he has claimed is the authority’s failure to protect him.

The decision comes two months after the whistle-blower wrote to junior defence minister Paul Kehoe complaining of the “unwarranted treatment” he has received since he submitted a protected disclosure on health-and-safety issues.

In this communication with Mr Kehoe, the whistle blower included signed statements from two air corps personnel, the contents of which, he said, were evidence of an attempt by those in authority to “isolate and vilify” him and turn his colleagues against him.

He is one of three whistle blowers to make complaints about the chemical exposure suffered by air corps maintenance staff, the details of which were first revealed by the Irish Examiner two years ago.

The commanding officer further pointed to previous complaints made against him by the whistle-blower, which he said constitutes “a consistent pattern of vindictive and bullying behaviour” against him.

The commanding officer further pointed to previous complaints made against him by the whistle-blower, which he said constitutes “a consistent pattern of vindictive and bullying behaviour” against him.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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If said commanding officer felt he was targeted by a consistent pattern of vindictive and bullying behaviour by a subordinate the Defence Forces have measures in place to deal with such behaviour through military law.

If the commanding officer didn’t act to use existing disciplinary mechanisms against his subordinate why did he introduce such complaints when he himself was being investigated? 

Delay – Deny – Die

Minster Kehoe ‘satisfied’ with Air Corps audits

The Junior Defence Minister said he is “fully satisfied” the State Claims Agency (SCA) can adequately carry out health audits in the Air Corps despite a separate workplace safety watchdog finding a series of failings at Casement Aerodrome after a decade of annual inspections by the SCA.

Mr Kehoe gave his backing to the SCA after he told the Dáil that the agency “conducted a number of Health and Safety Management System Defence Forces audits within the Air Corps between the years 2006-2015”.

The whistle-blower complaints also prompted an independent review. In his report, the reviewer said “a problem has arisen in relation to the issues raised by the three informants because appropriate records to demonstrate compliance are not readily available”.

The SCA’s audits were not made available to the reviewer, nor was an internal Air Corps report, seen by this newspaper, which raised concerns about staff exposure to the cancer-causing chemical trichloroethylene.

The SCA is currently defending 21 court cases against the Air Corps, including a number from ex-personnel who say their exposure to chemicals at Casement Aerodrome led to serious illnesses.

Mr Kehoe revealed the decade of SCA audits in response to a parliamentary question from Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, who was critical of the decision not to release reports.

“Time and time again the minister states that the health and welfare of the Defence Forces personnel is a high priority for him and the military authorities. This may be the case, but the health and welfare of all future recruits and contractors should be too,” Ms Murphy told the Irish Examiner.

“Health and Safety reports should not be shrouded in secrecy. It is an area of expertise of the Health and Safety Authority, perhaps they should really be leading on this, I question whether the State Claims Agency in the past provided an adequate service and applied robust enough tests to the working environment at Baldonnel.”

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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In the interests of transparency, Minister Kehoe should release all the State Claims Agency Health & Safety Management System Audits of Baldonnel with immediate effect.

If the audits were carried out to an adequate standard what has Minister Kehoe got to hide?

Delay – Deny – Die

Irish Air Corps whistle-blower claims death toll from chemical-linked illnesses surpasses 72

A MAN WHO is taking the State to court over his time in the Air Corps believes 72 of his colleagues died prematurely, linking their deaths to alleged chemical exposure at work.

The recent death of a former airman has brought the alleged death toll to 72, according to the whistle-blower.

He also alleges that:

  • 72 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980
  • 59 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 36 of these deaths have occurred since 2010

The whistle-blower is claiming that the State neglected health and safety rules and exposed himself and his fellow workers to seriously harmful levels of toxic chemicals. This continues to be strongly contested by the State.

The whistle-blowers in this case alleges there was a disregard for the safety of young Air Corps members. According to an online resource created for those who believe they were affected by the chemical exposure, there was:

  • No meaningful chemical risk assessments.
  • No risk specific health surveillance
  • No Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) issued
  • No chemical health and safety training whatsoever
  • No reporting of health and safety incidents
  • No follow up of unusual illnesses by medical personnel
  • Ignoring dangerous air quality reports
  • Personnel doused in toxic chemicals as pranks (hazing) incidents
  • Highly toxic chemicals disposed of onsite in an unsafe manner

Read full article on The Journal website below…

Never forget the 71+ untimely deaths from Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Scandal

Let us not forget the 71+ Irish Air Corps personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice NEEDLESSLY. That’s 71 sons, brothers & fathers who will never be home for Christmas ever again.

Let us think of their families & work to prevent further unnecessary deaths.

Perhaps the Irish Air Corps will work to help survivors in 2019 rather than actively denying appropriate healthcare as they have consistently done to date.

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Whistle blower who raised concerns over alleged chemical exposures seeks Air Corps inquiry

A whistleblower who has raised concerns over alleged chemical exposures in the Air Corps says the force used five of the same chemicals at the centre of a cancer scandal involving tech giants Samsung.

The whistleblower has compiled a list of 70 deaths of former Air Corps staff that he believes should prompt an investigation into chemical exposures at the force’s headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.

South Korean company Samsung last week apologised for the sickness and deaths suffered by some of its workers after they were linked to chemical exposures in its facilities. Dozens of employees have experienced grave illnesses such as leukaemia and brain tumours.

Samsung and a group representing ailing workers agreed compensation terms after a highly publicised standoff that had been ongoing for more than a decade. The president of its device solutions division said the company failed to “sufficiently manage health threats” at its plants

SHARPS (Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry) is a group campaigning on behalf of those who worked in Samsung facilities and subsequently suffered illnesses.

Its website has listed case studies and chemicals used by Samsung, including trichloroethylene, a known carcinogenic used by the Irish Air Corps until 2007.

This newspaper has previously revealed the details of an internal Air Corps memo that said it is possible staff may have ingested Triklone N, a vapour degreaser that contains trichloroethylene,  over a 27-year-period.

The memo said staff could have suffered other exposures because there was no record that protective measures were in place to mitigate the impact of the toxic solvent.

The summary of an internal Air Corps report, compiled in 2014, asks: “Can the Defence Forces be found not to have done everything reasonably practicable?”

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Protest by ex-Air Corps personnel targets Minister Paul Kehoe

A group of former air corps personnel say they will campaign against junior defence minister Paul Kehoe’s re-election in his Wexford constituency in protest at his response to health and safety issues within the force.

The group, Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors, picketed outside Mr Kehoe’s constituency office in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, on Saturday, and have claimed that 19 of their former colleagues have died since whistle-blowers raised concerns three years ago.

Seven former air corps technicians are suing the State, alleging that their exposure to toxic solvents in the course of their duties has caused them to suffer from chronic illnesses including cancer.

“Both the Minister for Defence, Leo Varadkar, and the minister of state with responsibility for defence, Paul Kehoe, have failed to offer medical help to save the lives and ease the suffering of Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors and apparently believe the best place to get medical help is via the High Court,” said the protest group in a statement.

“In the meantime the State Claims Agency is doing all in its power to prevent cases of injured Air Corps personnel from reaching court in order to hide their own negligence.”

PRESS RELEASE – ACCAS launch de-election campaign for Junior Minister for Defence

Both the Minister for Defence Leo Varadkar and the Minister of State with responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe have failed to offer medical assistance to save the lives and ease the suffering of Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors and apparently believe the best place to obtain medical help is via the High Court. In the meantime the State Claims Agency is doing all in its power to prevent cases of injured Air Corps personnel from reaching court in order to hide their own negligence.

We recognise the Junior Minister Kehoe has a vulnerable Fine Gael seat in the Wexford constituency and we have started our campaign to prevent his re-election.

  • We need non means tested medical cards for personnel who served in Irish Air Corps prior to
  • We need awareness campaigns for exposed Air Corps personnel & former work experience students from the University of Limerick.
  • We need access to state backed medical vigilance & cancer screening programs.
  • We need coordination of GPs, consultants & hospitals nationwide.

Minister Kehoe does not have the courage nor conviction to help. Minister Kehoe appears happy to let men who served in the Irish Air Corps die unnecessarily. 19 men have died since the first Health & Safety protected disclosure was made in 2015. Some of these men could have been saved.

We will ACTIVELY canvass AGAINST Minister Paul Kehoe T.D. in the next general election. This is one seat Fine Gael will NOT be relying upon in the 33rd Dáil.

Delay – Deny – Die

Dáil Éireann – 8th November 2018 – Public Accounts Committee

Catherine Murphy T.D. (Kildare North)

Public Accounts Committee

Deputy Murphy questions Mr. Ciaran Breen the Director of the State Claims Agency, regarding the agency’s stance on claims taken agains the Irish Air Corps regarding unprotected toxic chemicla exposure.

 

Air Corps chemicals safety system ‘deficient’

The safety management of chemical hazards within the Air Corps was “significantly less developed than expected” when inspected in 2016, according to an internal report by the health watchdog.

The document is the latest to raise questions about historic conditions within the Air Corps base at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, amid whistle-blower allegations and personal injury claims taken against the State by former personnel who now suffer chronic illnesses.

In late 2015, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) received complaints by former and serving members of the Air Corps, who had claimed personnel were not being adequately trained or being protected from the effects of the cancer-causing chemicals used to service aircraft.

The HSA inspected the site and then wrote to the Air Corps to threaten legal action against the force unless its recommended improvements were implemented, as previously reported by the Irish Examiner.

These recommendations included providing gloves, eye protection, and respirators to those using toxic chemicals, and the monitoring of personnel’s health.

While the HSA has since closed the case and said the Air Corps has implemented its recommendations, a review of the case, released to this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals further criticism of conditions in Baldonnel at the time of the inspection.

“However the safety management system for control of chemical hazards was noted to be significantly less developed than would be expected for an organisation of the size and resources of the Air Corps,” the HSA inspector noted in his review.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Mental Health and the Irish Air Corp illness cluster

A new report by Mental Health Reform, the national coalition on mental health in Ireland, has found strong public support for increased State investment in mental health services.

A survey carried out by the coalition found that 84% of respondents thought that the health service places too little focus on mental health.

The study found that the public are willing to invest more in mental healthcare when compared to other related healthcare programmes.

Mental Health Reform says staffing in mental health services is lower now than it was in 2008 and it is calling on the Government to boost investment in the area.

Note the graph below only includes personnel for whom we have death certificates for. We are in the process of verifying many more deaths, most of which relate to the earlier decades.

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Prevention is better than cure.

If the government bother to medically & scientifically investigate the mental health illness cluster at the #IrishAirCorps where at least 13 serving & former personnel have killed themselves since 1980 they might learn something about environmental causes & triggers of mental health problems.

We suspect hydrocarbon fuels, engine exhausts, isocyanates, VOCs etc all have a part to play and the civilian population get exposed to these too but usually at lower levels.

So far the state have only sent in barristers. Think about it 65 men dead at an average age of 49 years and all the state can mobilise is barristers.

In the absence of military or government statistics on untimely deaths in the Irish Air Corps we created our own. We are happy to have these tested or even proven wrong by better statistics gathered by the state in a comprehensive, open and transparent manner. #WeAreNotStatisticians