The State is facing a further High Court action from a former member of the Defence Forces allegedly suffering chronic ill-health due to exposure to chemicals in the Air Corps.
The disclosure of a seventh case came in the Dáil yesterday, where opposition politicians said the Government’s response to a growing health scandal over the past year was like ‘Groundhog Day’ in its repetition and inaction.
Last year, the Irish Examiner revealed six former Defence Forces members were suing the State over chronic health issues. A medical expert had advised that the health complaints were as a result of working conditions at Casement Aerodrome.
This newspaper also revealed how a number of whistleblowers had warned the Government that the Air Corps’ management of chemical exposure was inadequate, a claim vindicated after an inspection by the Health and Safety Authority.
Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe yesterday confirmed a seventh case. He denied claims there had been a cover-up within the Defence Forces to hide the extent of its knowledge of conditions in Baldonnell Aerodrome.
“The Minister of State seems, somehow, to be suggesting that his inaction is to serve the interests of those affected,” said Fianna Fáil defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers.
“Minister, this particular issue is a little bit like Groundhog Day; we continue to ask questions, myself and others, and we continue to get the same stock response.
Sinn Féin defence spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh called for a health survey of Air Corps members to determine whether they are more at risk of serious illness.
“All the O’Toole report dealt with was whether the procedures were in place to deal with whistleblowers. This is not about the whistleblowers or the cases before the courts at the moment,” he said.
“The State is fighting them tooth and nail and I think it is on the losing side. If those are set aside, there are quite a number of other members who gave service to this State, through the Air Corps, who are suffering catastrophic health problems.
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