Labour leader Brendan Howlin is not satisfied with the Government’s response to the Air Corps chemical exposure scandal, and has called for an external review of the allegations.
The State is facing seven High Court claims from former Air Corps technicians, who say they suffer chronic illnesses due to exposure to toxic chemicals while they were cleaning and servicing aircraft.
A number of whistleblowers have made protected disclosures about working conditions in Air Corps headquarters at Casement Aerodrome. The Health and Safety Authority subsequently investigated, and threatened legal action, unless the Defence Forces improved worker safety.
Mr Howlin raised the issue in the Dáil last month, and has since received correspondence from the Government.
“I’ve raised it with the Taoiseach directly and I’ve gotten a two-page response from the minister with responsibility for defence, and I’m not satisfied,” Mr Howlin said. “There needs to be at least an expert-review panel set up to look into this in some detail.”
However, Mr Howlin did not call for a full commission of investigation, but said that the findings of an external review should determine whether such a process is necessary.
“Whether a full tribunal of investigation is required remains to be seen, but the first step to that is to have an external, expert review, and that needs to happen immediately, and I certainly will be pressing for that,” he said.
This review should include a health study of Air Corps members past and present to determine if they have a higher prevalence of chronic conditions compared to the general public, he said.
“That would have to be a critical part of the review, because, once the fears are there, they have to be empirically checked out,” Mr Howlin said.
“They are either fact or not fact. There’s no point in people either dismissing them, or saying it’s a fact. We need to have external, independent, authoritative decisions on these matters.”
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