Dáil Éireann – 4th July 2019 – Public Accounts Committee – Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Exposure

Catherine Murphy T.D. (Kildare North)Public Accounts Committee

Watch Deputy Catherine Murphy question Mr. Ciaran Breen, Director of the State Claims Agency and Mr. Pat Kirwan,  Head of Enterprise Risk, also at the State Claims Agency, about the failure of a decade of Risk Management Section, Heath & Safety Management System audits at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

The State Claims Agency audits at Baldonnel commenced in 2006 and continued as the Irish Air Corps were investigated by the Health & Safety Authority in 2016 for serious breaches of the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005. Breaches that including the very basic failure to provide PPE or chemical training.

It took the threat of legal action by the Health & Safety Authority as well as 2 years & 9 months of intervention to finally close the HSA file on what their own inspectors described as the most serious case of chemical misuse in the history of the state.

It should be noted that the State Claims Agency were not only aware from 2013 that the unprotected chemical exposures at Baldonnel were an ONGOING LIVE ISSUE, but bizarrely failed to intervene to prevent further exposure once this knowledge was in their possession.

It took the actions of three whistle-blowers in 2015 to bring the ongoing toxic chemical Health & Safety failures at the Irish Air Corps to the attention of the Minister for Defence and also to the attention of the Health & Safety Authority.

Why did the State Claims Agency fail to notice the high rate of untimely mortality, the high rate of suicide, the high rate of sick leave, the lack of PPE records and the lack of any chemical training records in 10 years of supposed audits.

Why did the State Claims Agency fail to act in 2013 when they did become aware that personnel were still being needlessly exposed to dangerous chemicals without PPE and without any chemical safety training?

Hearings needed into Air Corps whistle-blower claims – Ó Snodaigh

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called for an Oireachtas inquiry into the claims made by Air Corps whistle-blowers that Defence Forces personnel suffered serious health consequences over decades as a result of toxic chemical exposure.

Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:

“I have drafted a Dáil motion calling for the establishment of a special Oireachtas committee to conduct relevant hearings into the claims made by Air Corps whistle-blowers and I will be seeking cross party support for it.”

“Informal research made by one of the whistle-blowers, provided to the Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe, raises questions over a number of deaths of former serving Air Corps personnel. Currently 73 deaths have occurred to personnel aged under 66 with the average age of 50.”

“The research has pointed to an unexplained, higher than normal concentration of very rare illnesses among relatively young former Air Corps personnel. They have called for a full health survey of serving and former Air Corps members, and those who worked in the Aerodrome to be carried out.”

“The aim of survey would be to try and quantify fully the scale and range of the health issue which they have linked to daily exposure to dangerous, corrosive and carcinogenic chemicals in areas of the Air Corps base.”

“The State was aware of these concerns following a number of reports Health and Safety drafted as early as the 1990s which highlighted dangerous working conditions and chemical exposures in Casement Aerodrome, in Baldonnel, County Dublin, which were not acted on.”

Please read the press release in full on the Sinn Féin website.

http://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/52575

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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.

 

Dáil Éireann – Oral Question 38 – 26th June 2018 – Irish Air Corps Protected Disclosure

Mr. Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South-Central )

Question No. 38

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he has received a protected disclosure from a member of the  Defence Forces (details supplied); if he has responded to the disclosure; and the action that has been taken on foot of the disclosure. — Aengus Ó Snodaigh. [27762/18]

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To be clear Minister Paul Kehoe & Taoiseach Leo Varadkar received this Protected Disclosure in December 2017, issued a receipt and have ignored since. 

Dáil Éireann – Oral Question 7 – 10th May 2018 – Irish Air Corps Survivors

Mr. Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South-Central )

Question No. 7

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the Chemical Exposure Report 1994-2005 will be released in order to provide former members of the Air Corps who are now chronically ill with information relating to the level of exposure they suffered in view of his recent call for candour and transparency in cases regarding the health of persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter

This relates to a matter that has been ongoing for a while. Given the current controversy around the checks for cervical cancer, there is a need for transparency in publishing reports that will help people suffering health consequences so they can manage future health needs.

Irish Prime Minister condemns Irish Army Air Corps chemical exposure survivors to death.

  • Thousands unnecessarily exposed
  • Scores dead
  • Scores sick
  • Taoiseach says best for courts to investigate
  • Courts don’t investigate, they adjudicate
  • Irish Air Corps appealing chemical list discovery to delay cases
  • 2 untimely deaths since Christmas as at 07/02/18

 

 

Dáil Éireann – Other Question 11 – 24th January 2018 – Irish Air Corps Whistle-blower

Lisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)

Other Question No. 11

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the further action he plans to take in relation to Air Corps whistle-blowers.

Dáil Éireann – Priority Question 2 – 24th January 2018 – Irish Air Corps – Toxic Chemical Exposure Health Audit

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

Priority Question No. 2

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to carry out a medical or health audit of serving and former members of the Air Corps similar to that undertaken in Australia in order to identify those that may have been exposed on an ongoing basis to toxic chemicals during their service. [3490/18]

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 18/10/17 – Defences Forces – Protected Disclosures

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

QUESTION NO: 38

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on a person’s (details supplied) contention contained within their report on health and safety procedures at Casement Aerodrome that they lacked the powers, experience and competence to investigate the allegations made by the whistleblowers; the reason the scope of a review was so limited despite assurances made by him in Dáil Éireann that the review would adequately deal with the allegations made in the protective disclosures received by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44025/17]

Clare Daly (Dublin Fingal, Independent)

QUESTION NO: 47

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to commission a second review of claims by former Air Corps staff that say their exposure to toxic chemicals from the late 1980s to the early 2000s caused chronic illnesses in view of the fact that the person commissioned to perform the first review (details supplied) has stated that they were not in a position to consider the substances in use or implications for human health arising from such use in view of the fact these issues are outside their competence. [43976/17]

Séan Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)

QUESTION NO: 165

o ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason the report into allegations contained within protective disclosures relating to Casement Aerodrome fails to address that staff are at greater risk of serious illness as a result of their service at Baldonnel; and his views on whether these serious matters can only be properly assessed through a thorough health study and survey of current and former members. [44041/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38, 47 and 65 together.

The health and welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces are a priority for me; that is why I ensured that protected disclosures alleging exposure to chemical and toxic substances were investigated by an independent third party. The reviewer’s report has indicated that he felt that given the breadth of the remit of the Terms of Reference he commented in general terms on the Defence Force safety regime.

It must be remembered that prior to the receipt of the disclosures, litigation had first been initiated in relation to the subject matter of the disclosures. This therefore complicated the approach to be taken in developing any parallel process. Notwithstanding this significant challenge, I put in place just such a parallel process. In light of the legally complex situation, I believe it was appropriate that an experienced legal professional was appointed.

It was the view of the independent reviewer that the Courts are best placed to examine issues in relation to allegations which were already subject to litigation. This is so given the historic nature of the complaints, and, significantly, that it potentially affects the reputations and good names of individuals. What the report shows is the difficulty in putting a parallel process to the courts in place.

The report also notes that the Health and Safety Authority is the appropriate statutory body to deal with such allegations.

I have furnished the report to those who made the protected disclosures and, before considering any further steps, I will await their views.

Separately and in parallel to the independent review, following an inspection in 2016, the Air Corps has 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.

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DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann – Priority Question 29 – 18th October 2017

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

29. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a Commission of Investigation into serious allegations of an ineffective or non existent health and safety regime in the Air Corps will be established in view of the fact that a person (details supplied) stated in their report that the allegations made by the three whistle blowers could not be adequately dealt with in the type of informal review they were tasked with carrying out. [44083/17]