Air Corps whistleblower’s decision to retire “demonstrates a dysfunction in the complaints process”

The Irish Examiner revealed today that the whistle-blower – one of three who has previously raised concerns about staff’s exposure to chemicals – has announced his decision to retire early.

His decision comes two months after telling Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe that he has not received assurances from Defence Forces hierarchy that he is not being targeted for making protected disclosures.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said a list of deaths compiled by one Air Corps whistle-blower requires explanation.

The list, the existence of which was previously reported in this newspaper, contains the details of more than 70 deaths of former Air Corps staff that the whistle-blower believes may be connected to chemical exposures at the force’s headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.

She described the revelation that a whistle-blower is to retire early as ‘shocking’.

“I’m very concerned about the treatment of whistle-blowers and people making disclosures, as some arms of the public service are not dealing with them as comprehensively or fairly as they should,” Ms Murphy said.

Fianna Fáil Defence spokesman, Jack Chambers, said the whistle-blower’s decision “demonstrates a dysfunction in the complaints process” and will act as a deterrent to anyone else who is thinking about coming forward.

“This is symptomatic of the general malaise that has been allowed to fester within the Defence Forces under the current Minister. Whistle-blowers who feel that their only next option is to retire demonstrates a dysfunction in the complaints process and it certainly doesn’t encourage others who have issues of concern from engaging with the process.”

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 23/10/18 – Department of Defence – Air Corps Health Monitoring

Jack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)

QUESTION NO: 172

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the changes in health and safety policies that have been implemented following the publication of the report of the independent reviewer, protected disclosures, Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43404/18]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have sought the information from the military authorities and will revert to the Deputy when it is to hand.

 

Jack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)

QUESTION NO: 173

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a programme that monitors actual exposure of Defence Forces members to hazardous substances either via personal air monitoring or biological monitoring as outlined in the report of the independent reviewer, protected disclosures, Air Corps is in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43405/18]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have sought the information from the military authorities and I will revert to the Deputy when it is available.

 

14th November 2018

Mr Jack Chambers, T.D.,
Dail Eireann,
Leinster House,
Dublin 2.
Dear Deputy,

You will recall my recent-replies to written Parliamentary-Questions 43-404/18 and 43405/18, wherein I advised you that I had sought the requested information from the military authorities and that I would revert to you when it was to hand.

I have now received the aforementioned information from the military authorities. At the outset I would like to advise you that while the exposure monitoring programme is referenced in the June, 2017 report of the independent reviewer, it is actually outlined (as a recommendation) in the Health & Safety Authority’s Report of Inspection to the Air Corps dated 21 October, 2016, which followed three inspections by the HSA at Casement Aerodrome during 2016.

The resultant Air Corps improvement plan confirmed the Air Corps’ full commitment to implementing improved safety measures that protect workers and ensure risks are as low as reasonably practicable. The plan was implemented over eight phases, seven of which the military authorities have advised are now complete, while phase 8 – Chemical awareness training and respiratory equipment training – is a continuous, ongoing process.

Phase 7 comprised a review of the Defence Forces policy on hazardous substances. This policy was subsequently amended in September, 2017 and, inter alia, describes the Defence Forces methodology for the assessment of risk arising from the transport, storage and disposal of hazardous substances. The new policy also provides guidance for military personnel. civilian employees and other relevant persons on the risk assessment process and control and measures to be implemented to reduce the risk of injury from the use, transport, storage and disposal of hazardous substances to a level that is as low as reasonably practicable.

Insofar as a programme that monitors exposure to hazardous substances is concerned, I am advised by the military authorities that the Air Corps have conducted and continue to conduct air monitoring studies at Casement Aerodrome and that the Air Corps are currently planning further air monitoring  studies in targeted areas next year.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Kehoe, T.D.,
Minister with responsibility for Defence

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 25/10/18 – Department of Defence – Sick Leave

Jack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)

QUESTION NO: 70

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of sick days taken by members in each service of the Defence Forces to date in 2018. [44411/18]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

In line with other sectors, sick leave statistics for the Defence Forces are compiled annually and provided to the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform (D/PER). These statistics are used in order to track the levels of absenteeism across the public service. The absence rates for the public service are then published by D/PER.

The total number of sick leave days claimed by members of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps as of the 23rd October is outlined in the tabular format below.

ServiceSick Leave 2018
Up to 23/10/18
Service Strength
Up to 31/10/18
Average Sick Leave Per Person
Army55,24272367.5
Naval Service5,4209935.5
Air Corps6889709
9.7
Total67,55190287.5

 

*****

Why are Air Corps personnel 30% sicker than their Army counterparts. 

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 23/10/18 – Department of Defence – Health and Safety

Jack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)

QUESTION NO: 172

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the changes in health and safety policies that have been implemented following the publication of the report of the independent reviewer, protected disclosures, Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43404/18]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have sought the information from the military authorities and will revert to the Deputy when it is to hand.

 

Jack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)

QUESTION NO: 173

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a programme that monitors actual exposure of Defence Forces members to hazardous substances either via personal air monitoring or biological monitoring as outlined in the report of the independent reviewer, protected disclosures, Air Corps is in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43405/18]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have sought the information from the military authorities and I will revert to the Deputy when it is available.

 

*****

DELAY – DENY – DIE