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

*****

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Suicide, cancer and organ failure – today we list all the alleged victims of the Air Corps chemical scandal

FOR THE LAST year, TheJournal.ie has been covering allegations made by former members of the Irish Air Corps that exposure to harmful chemicals during their careers has led to the untimely deaths of many of their colleagues.

It’s the contention of a number of Air Corps members that the effects of the chemicals contributed to dozens of workers at the Baldonnel Airfield becoming ill.

In a protected disclosure made by one of the workers earlier this year, it has also been alleged that the partners of male members of the force suffered serious fertility issues and a number of miscarriages. Other children, according to the protected disclosure, are living with life-changing illnesses and, in some cases, have died.

Today, after receiving details verified through death certificates of each of those who has passed away, we can publish details of 45 deceased members: their ages, their causes of death and what position they held in the Air Corps.

Read full article on The Journal website below…

Delay – Deny – Die

Probe into Air Corps allegations urged

The Air Corps’ failure to protect workers from exposure to cancer-causing chemicals may have affected thousands of people, causing 100 deaths as well as birth defects and miscarriages, the Dáil heard yesterday.

The claim, previously made in a protected disclosure to the Department of Defence, was aired as opposition politicians increased the pressure on the Government to commission an investigation into working conditions at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnell.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin criticised the Government’s efforts to have whistle-blowers’ claims of health and safety mismanagement adequately investigated after the details of an independent report were reported by the Irish Examiner.

Christopher O’Toole, an independent third-party appointed to review the claims, reported that the kind of probe envisaged by the terms of reference he was given by the Department of Defence was “impractical”, given his own lack of expertise in chemical science and medicine.

However, Mr O’Toole did report that appropriate records that demonstrate the Air Corps complied with health and safety standards “are not readily available”.

Putting questions to junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe in the Dáil yesterday, Sinn Féin Defence spokesman Aengus O’Snodaigh outlined the litany of allegations against the Air Corps, noting claims of “clusters of highly complicated medical conditions, miscarriages, and birth defects among those who worked in those conditions”.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Delay – Deny – Die

Report of Independent Reviewer – Protected Disclosures – Air Corps

Terms of Reference

The review shall encompass a review of all relevant documents held by the  Department and the Defence Forces, any additional material as may be supplied or received by the Reviewer, and interviews of such persons as considered appropriate by the Reviewer.

The Reviewer will:

  1. Review the allegations as detailed in the written correspondence to the Minister and determine if –
    • In the period covered by the disclosure, did the Air Corps comply with relevant Health and Safety standards with regard to the safe use of toxic chemicals and if not what action has been taken in the intervening period to ensure compliance.
  2. In relation the disclosure, provide considered views and observations in relation to the allegations set out.
  3. Provide such other considered views and observations as are considered necessary.

The Reviewer shall be provided with access to all available documentation relevant to the events and any other documentation requested by the Reviewer.

The Reviewer shall be provided with the names of all relevant persons, including serving or retired members of the Defence Forces, or other persons the Reviewer considers appropriate. The Reviewer shall endeavour to interview or take statements from all relevant persons.

The Department of Defence and the Defence Forces shall each appoint a liaison officer to provide the necessary information required in order to conduct the review and to assist the Reviewer in identifying the relevant persons to be interviewed.

The review shall be submitted to the Minister with Responsibility for Defence by the Reviewer.

*****

Please click on the link below to open the report on the Department of Defence website.

Call for Commission of Investigation into Air Corps claims

The Government is facing calls to establish a Commission of Investigation into whistleblower claims against the Air Corps, after the terms of an independent report into the allegations were branded ‘farcical’ by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

The Air Corps stands accused of failing to protect its technicians from the effects of cancer-causing chemicals, with whistleblowers claiming that decades of neglect has had a devastating effect on the health of members of the Defence Forces.

Yesterday, the Irish Examiner revealed that Christopher O’Toole, the author of an independent review of the allegations, said the terms of reference he was given for this probe were “impractical”, and that elements of the allegations made were issues outside his expertise.

Mr O’Toole also found that records demonstrating the Air Corps’ compliance with health and safety regulations “are not readily available”.

Whistleblowers had previously alleged that inspection records dating back to the 1990s were deliberately destroyed because they had raised concerns, but both the Government and the Defence Forces deny the claim, and say the reports in question were mislaid over time.

Mr Martin said he believes a Commission of Investigation is necessary: “The situation is far from satisfactory because with his opening comments the report’s author is essentially saying he cannot fulfill the terms of reference. From the Government’s point of view they established this review, they must have known the terms of reference could not be fulfilled. It’s farcical.”

“It seems to me there are no records of compliance with health regulations, which is very, very serious because in their absence one has to conclude that the probability is they were not complied with.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Delay – Deny – Die

Air Corps report highlights need for full inquiry into dangerous chemicals exposure – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin Defence Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the government must now initiate a comprehensive investigation into health  and safety procedures at Casement Aerodrome and that its terms of reference must be broad enough to ensure it is able to examine the serious allegations made by serving and retired members’ of the Defence Forces.

“It is now time for the Government to act in the best interests of the Defence Forces and carry out a full review of health and safety protocols at Casement Aerodrome over the last three decades, which must be thorough, transparent and with terms of reference that allow for an in-depth examination of how chemicals and other toxic materials were managed.”

“It must also include the inclusion of oral testimonies from past and present personnel who served there and an independent assessment of their health and general well-being to ascertain if they have suffered as a result of their service at the base.

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

http://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/46483

*****

It should be pointed out that the state already has in its possession the “Chemical Exposure Report 1994-2005” which includes a review of chemical management as well as oral testimonies from serving personnel. This report actually predates the whistle-blower allegations and was created in 2014.

Unfortunately the report was carried out for the State Claims Agency with a view to fighting affected personnel in the High Court, rather than help ill serving & former personnel.

Even though “Chemical Exposure Report 1994-2005” has the potential to save lives, Minister Paul Kehoe refused to waive privilege or release the review when asked by Aengus Ó Snodaigh in a recent Parliamentary Question.

Please read the parliamentary question here.

http://www.accas.info/?m=201709

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Casement Aerodrome inquiry: Key review is a botched job

It happens in the best of homes; stuff — invoices, receipts, notes, cards and letters put by because one day they might be needed — gets lost, inadvertently destroyed or just misplaced. It’s part of the rich and familiar tapestry of domestic life. It should not happen in public organisations and authorities that spend large sums of taxpayers’ money on filing and recording systems and on the people who are supposed to run them.

But that appears to be only one of the serious issues highlighted today in our report on the independent review of claims by former Air Corps staff who say their exposure to toxic chemicals from the late 1980s to the early 2000s caused chronic illnesses. Another seems to be that the review — established by the Defence department — was itself not fit for purpose.

The review — by a retired civil servant — was charged with examining the allegations made by Air Corps workers whose claim was that the State failed to give them adequate training and protection … a fairly straightforward mission, then. No, not at all; it has been a waste of time, and for that no fault at all attaches to the retired civil servant, Christopher O’Toole. His only error, perhaps, was to accept the toxic commission at the outset.

Those are, sadly, very general terms because, as he goes on to explain, “a problem has arisen in relation to the issues raised by the informants because appropriate records to demonstrate compliance are not readily available … In the absence of such records, proof of compliance is problematic and establishing the actual situation at the time in question would be a complex task requiring the gathering of evidence and probably taking oral testimony; in effect a forensic exercise which it is not possible for me to carry out.”

The review tells those most affected — and that could be a great many Air Corps employees — and the wider public nothing about the facts at the heart of this case, leaving us still with questions about the “appropriate records” that are not available. What is necessary now is a second review, led by an independent chemicals expert — perhaps from Scotland or Wales — who can establish once and for all what happened, or didn’t happen, at Casement Aerodrome.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Delay – Deny – Die

Air Corps official denies file destruction

An Air Corps official has denied whistleblowers’ allegations that he destroyed documents central to a legal action against the State.

Six former Air Corps technicians are suing the State, alleging inadequate health and safety management of the cancer-causing chemicals they used, and that their unnecessary exposure to these substances has caused them to suffer chronic illnesses including cancer.

The State has denied this.

Health and safety reports on conditions at the time in the Air Corps headquarters at Casement Aerodrome are missing, with the Defence Forces speculating that these documents were misplaced over time.
Two whistleblowers have alleged that an Air Corps official ordered the destruction of the documents, with one of the whistleblowers naming the official in question in a protected disclosure to Paul Kehoe, the junior defence minister.

Mr Kehoe this week revealed that the named official has denied the claim.

Read full article on The Journal website below…

‘We need to be vindicated. Friends are dead or dying’ : Air Corps report due this week

IRISH AIR CORPS whistleblowers say they hope an independent report due to be published this week will corroborate their claims that safety procedures around chemicals at Baldonnel Airfield put them at risk.

In the last 12 months, at least six former members of the Defence Forces have started legal proceedings against the State, alleging that they were exposed to toxic levels of chemicals and that a lack of protective equipment has left them with lifelong illnesses.

In January of this year, Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe ordered that an independent investigation be conducted by former Attorney General senior official Christopher O’Toole. The complainants have been told this crucial report will be released this week.

Read full article on The Journal website below…

Disclosure review for Air Corps staff

Defence Forces whistle-blowers who raised concerns about Air Corps staff exposure to carcinogenic chemicals are to receive the review of their disclosures this week.

The Crucifixion

Last January, the Irish Examiner revealed how whistleblowers raised the health and safety issues with Cabinet members, and that the protected disclosures came years after six former Air Corps staff had brought legal action against the State, over the chronic illnesses they suffer.

The six claim their illnesses, including cancer and neurological issues, are as a result of their working environment. Four separate whistleblowers have made disclosures relating to current health and safety issues at Air Corps headquarters at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, Co Dublin.

Despite the first protected disclosure coming in December 2015, a third party was not appointed to review the whistleblowers’ claims until September of last year.

A month later, the health and safety watchdog published the findings of its own investigations into conditions at Casement Aerodrome. The Health and Safety Authority threatened the Air Corps with legal action, unless it addressed concerns it raised following a series of inspections — a number of issues that mirrored the warnings of the whistleblowers.

Read full article on the Irish Examiner website below…