DIE – Varadkar & Kehoe happy to let Irish Air Corps personnel die unnecessarily

Is it possible that these illnesses are a coincidence? Yes.

Could it be the case that there is no direct correlation between the chronic sickness suffered by former Air Corps staff and their working environment?

Absolutely.

But the evidence to date —what is known about the chemicals used in Baldonnel, the international precedents, the HSA inspection, the internal Air Corps memo — all these support the argument that at the very least, the possibility that conditions in Baldonnel have made people sick is worth a proper investigation.

However, this is a question the Government won’t ask because it fears the answer.

General Dynamics F-111 linked to RAAF Deseal / Reseal Scandal

 

It need not be this way.

Australia went through a major scandal when scores of its Air Force maintenance staff were found to be ill as a result of their working environment.

That scandal first emerged among a group of specialist staff who had a specific job, but the issue spread to Air Force staff who had exposures to a wider range of substances.

And yet in Australia, while those Air Force personnel involved in the health study have a higher rate of chronic illnesses than the general population, their mortality rate from those illnesses is actually lower.

Why?

Because the Australian government conducted an investigation, found a connection, and subsequently those affected knew the early warning signs, their doctors knew what to look out for, and earlier intervention was made possible.

There appears to be little appetite in Ireland to even investigate whether the same could possibly be happening here, despite the obvious potential benefits to a number of citizens.

Speaking privately, one of those who is seriously ill and who is before the court has admitted he believes he will be “in the ground” before his case reaches any sort of conclusion.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

DENY – An Taoiseach Dr. Leo Varadkar denies chemical link at Baldonnel

If only those foreign governments or Samsung had the medical advice on hand here in Ireland. Perhaps they would have held tough and refused compensation to their sick workers if they’d heard this suggestion by an Irish doctor:

“As a medical doctor, it is not possible for me to say if exposure to chemicals caused all or any of these illnesses because they are commonplace in the community at large.”

“If it was one specific illness resulting from a known chemical that caused such an illness, that would be one thing. These are not the allegations that are being made, however,”Dr Leo Varadkar told the Dáil in February 2018.

However, the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry would not support Dr Varadkar’s view that we should be looking out for “one specific illness resulting from a known chemical” in the Air Corps case. It says there is sufficient evidence to be sure that exposure to TCE is causation for kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and cardiac defects.

They say the evidence is sufficient to conclude that a causal relationship is likely between exposure to TCE and leukaemia, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, end-stage renal disease, Parkinson’s disease, and scleroderma.

The agency says there are 21 different health effects — including various cancers, miscarriages, and birth defects — that have been found in at least one study that evaluated exposure to TCE and/or PCE.

Aside from that list of life-changing illnesses arising from exposure to TCE, it is worth bearing in mind that this was not the only chemical used in Baldonnel.

Varadkar and Kehoe’s stock answer to date is that there should be no examination of any connection between conditions in Baldonnel until the seven ongoing court cases are resolved. The first of these was lodged five years ago, and the State Claims Agency has fought these cases tooth and nail.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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.

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

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 – Public Accounts Committee – 08/11/18

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

I will move on to another area regarding the State Claims Agency. It relates to the Air Corps. The Air Corps used to hold information in relation to health and safety. Deputy Ó Snodaigh looked for information and stated it was misplaced. Subsequently, there was a court case. There were some whistleblowers. The State Claims Agency stated that no admission was made that the defendants exposed the plaintiff to dangerous chemicals or solvents, and that is the nub of what it relates to.

The State Claims Agency stated that it could confidently claim that there were no injuries due to any act or omission on its part and yet there was no documentation that could provide that confidence. Subsequently, there was a report, the O’Toole report, which stated that the records to demonstrate health and safety compliance are not readily available.

In such a situation where there is the absence of information, how can the State Claims Agency state it can confidently predict or state something when records were not available?

Mr. Ciarán Breen (State Claims Agency)

I apologise Chairman, I did not realise we were going to examine the general indemnity scheme. Generally, I am vaguely familiar with the particular case. While I do not have the exact facts or recollection of it, I am guessing that the reason we confidently stated what we did was either because of where the person was working or we had come to an independent view informed by the Air Corps around those liability issues. I really cannot put it further than that.

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

Could Mr. Breen follow up with a note on it?

 

Mr. Ciarán Breen (State Claims Agency)

I will certainly. Maybe afterwards, the Deputy might give me the name of the case and I will follow it up.

 

*****

The State Claims Agency were aware from late 2013 / early 2014 that the Health &  Safety failings at Baldonnel were in fact an “ongoing” issue and not just a “legacy” issue and failed to intervene by requesting the services of the HSA to protect Air Corps personnel. It took the actions of whistle-blowers at the end of 2015 before the HSA intervened in 2016 to improve Air Corps Health & Safety. 

The State Claims Agency Risk Management branch had been carrying out “Safety Management Systems” audits of the Irish Air Corps, in selected units and at formation level, for a decade before the Health & Safety Authority were forced to intervene to protect personnel from ongoing CMR chemical exposures in 2016.

The NTMA operates a discretionary performance-related payments scheme for eligible employees, which includes staff assigned to the State Claims Agency. The scheme rewards 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.

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 06/11/18 – Department of Defence Health and Safety

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

QUESTION NO: 124

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the action he has taken or plans to take on foot of the O’Toole Report which has been sent to the whistle-blowers 12 months ago and feedback received a number of months ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter 45046/18.

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

The State Claims Agency is currently managing 7 claims taken by former and current members of the Air Corps for personal injuries alleging exposure to chemical and toxic substances whilst working in the Air Corps.

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. I appointed an independent reviewer to examine the disclosures.

Following receipt of the report of the independent reviewer, 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.

I am considering the responses I received from the parties and legal advice in the context of ongoing active litigation before deciding on the next steps to be taken….blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah 18 men dead since Minister for Defence first notified minister considering report for a year now. 

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 23/10/18 – Irish Air Corps – University of Limerick

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

QUESTION NO: 166

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of University of Limerick students that had been sent to Baldonnel for work experience. 43321/18

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

My Department facilitated work experience under the University of Limerick student Placement Programme for 3 students per year commencing in 1992 and ending with the 2008/2009 academic year.

*****

  • The 51 UL work experience students who served over 2 decades at Baldonnel shared substandard working conditions with military personnel at Baldonnel.
  • UL work experience students were exposed in an unprotected manner to Trichlorethylene, Trichloroethane, Dichloromethane, Isocyanates, Hexavalent Chromium compounds and MANY more CMR chemical. WITHOUT any PPE. So no basic protection like gloves, no eye protection, no respiratory protection. 
  • UL work experience students were subject to hazing incidents (tubbings) just like their military counterparts.
  • The University of Limerick have so far refused to notify the affected students that they may have been exposed to high levels of toxic chemicals with lifelong consequences.
  • Of the admittedly  small number of UL work experience students we have been able to track down, 2 out of 3 are suffering life changing illnesses consistent with illnesses suffered by their similarly exposed military colleagues.

DELAY – DENY – DIE