State faces seventh Irish Army Air Corps action

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.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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Air Corps scandal still some way from touching down

In a series of articles across 2017, the Irish Examiner revealed serious concerns about the working environment within the Air Corps — matters that have seen allegations of a deliberate cover-up, of victimisation of whistleblowers, and of a lackadaisical attitude towards health and safety that has put lives at risk, writes Joe Leogue.

While the stories broken by this newspaper since January have posed a myriad of questions for the State and the Defence Forces, the issues have one common controversy running throughout.

Have technicians within the Air Corps developed cancer, neurological problems, and other chronic conditions as a result of unnecessary exposure to toxic chemicals during their time at Casement Aerodrome?

WARNING  – Very long article reviewing the following topics.

  • The Court Cases
  • The Whistleblowers
  • The Health Watchdog Inspections – Vindication for the Whistleblowers
  • The Internal Report
  • The Missing Reports – And allegations of a Cover-Up
  • The Independent Review
  • The International Precedents
  • The Political Reaction

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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Air Corps report ‘not available’ to reviewer

An official tasked with reviewing whistle-blower allegations of chemical exposure within the Air Corps was not given access to the Defence Forces’ own report on the claims, the Government has confirmed.

Six former Air Corps staff are suing the State, claiming their exposure to chemicals while in the Defence Forces caused cancers and other chronic illnesses they now suffer.

Meanwhile, three whistleblowers came forward to allege health and safety mismanagement within the Air Corps, in the years up to 2016. A subsequent inspection by the Health and Safety Authority confirmed many of the complaints outlined in the whistleblowers’ protected disclosures.

A Freedom of Information request earlier this year from Deputy Aengus O’Snodaigh had revealed Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe had been given a copy of a report entitled “Chemical Exposure Report (1994-2005)”.

The Department of Defence, meanwhile, tasked former civil servant Christopher O’Toole with reviewing claims from three whistleblowers who alleged the health of dozens of Air Corps staff may have been seriously compromised by exposure to chemicals used to clean and service aircraft.

In his report, however, Mr O’Toole concluded the terms of reference he was given had been ‘impractical’, and noted that appropriate records to demonstrate the Air Corps complied with health and safety regulations “are not readily available”.

This week, the Sinn Féin TD subsequently asked Mr Kehoe whether Mr O’Toole was provided with a copy of the “Chemical Exposure Report (1994-2005)”.

Mr Kehoe said it would not have been “appropriate” to give the report to Mr O’Toole. “As the report is subject to legal privilege, it was not appropriate to make it available to the independent reviewer,” the minister said.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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Pressure for probe into Casement Aerodrome health and safety

The Government is under increasing pressure to set up a commission of investigation into alleged health and safety management failures at Casement Aerodrome.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the Government has received and will consider whistleblowers’ thoughts on the independent review into their allegations of health and safety mismanagement within the Defence Forces, and recommendations would be drawn up to go to Cabinet on the matter.

It comes after the Irish Examiner revealed how former Air Corps staff are suing the State and claim they now suffer chronic illnesses — including cancer — as a result of the Defence Forces’ failure to adequately manage their exposure to the hazardous chemicals they used to service and clean aircraft.

The Irish Examiner also first reported how three whistleblowers raised concerns about how health and safety was managed in the Air Corps and alleged that missing inspection reports on conditions at Casement Aerodrome were destroyed as part of a cover-up to hide what the Defence Forces knew about the working environment.

Taking leaders questions in the Dáil for the first time as Tánaiste, Mr Coveney said he is “personally familiar” with some of the cases Labour leader Brendan Howlin raised and with previous whistleblowers at Casement Aerodrome.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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Paul Kehoe seeks to protect Air Corps whistleblower

The Government has written to the Defence Forces to demand a serving member who raised health and safety concerns within the Air Corps be protected under whistleblowers’ legislation.

The assurance from Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe came on the very day the whistleblower appeared before a Medical Board facing a charge of alleged “chronic ineffectivity” due to anxiety and a “work-related industrial dispute”.

The whistleblower had alleged that the Air Corps was failing in its duty to protect staff from the effects of the carcinogenic chemicals used to clean and service aircraft, and met Mr Kehoe to claim he was being victimised within the force for raising concerns.

Complaints from three whistleblowers led to an investigation from the Health and Safety Authority who threatened legal action against the Air Corps unless it improved its management of the hazardous chemicals.

An independent review of their claims found that documents “are not readily available” to prove the Air Corps was in compliance with health regulations on the use of toxic chemicals.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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Great to see a change of tack by Minister Paul Kehoe in the Air Corps whistleblowers case and that he took steps to ensure the only serving whistleblower received a fair medical board hearing.

It appears that the O’Toole report may not have been a waste of time as it helped the government ascertain that the Whistleblowers are telling the truth with regards to past Irish Air Corps compliance with chemical Health & Safety legislation.

The next step is for the government consider our demands which are balanced, fair & necessary.

*****

The priorities of the Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors are firstly to prevent further unnecessary loss of life amongst survivors and secondly to improve the quality of life of survivors by reducing unnecessary suffering. Both the Royal Australian Air Force & the Armed forces of the Netherlands have offered templates as to how to approach unfortunate workplace chemical exposure issues with competence, fairness, justice & urgency.

We urge that all responsible organisations in the state such as political parties, government departments and the Defence Forces to work together to commit the state to provide the following for survivors as an ex. gratia scheme with no admission of liability by the state.

Current & future legal cases should be allowed to take their natural course unhindered whilst all survivors are cared for equally by the state.

  1. A state funded medical awareness, vigilance & screening program aimed at early detection of the serious “at risk” diseases such as blood / gastro / renal / skin cancers, cardiac problems, Crohn’s, Parkinson’s etc. for exposed serving and former personnel in Ireland & abroad. List of illnesses to be determined in cooperation with a suitably qualified medical toxicologist.
  2. A non-means-tested medical card for all exposed current & former personnel to include spouses & children.
  3. A non-means-tested free travel pass for all exposed current & former personnel plus a spouse / carer.
  4. A non-means-tested state funded counselling program for exposed current & personnel and their family members to include assistance for the management of anxiety / depression / Chronic Fatigue / sleep disturbance etc.
  5. National co-ordination of medical consultants as well as hospitals throughout the state so as there is awareness of conditions that exposed current & former exposed personnel are likely to present.
  6. A National awareness program for all GPs throughout the state so they can offer sympathetic medical treatment to Irish Army Air Corps chemical exposure survivors. This is to help ensure correct forwarding to specialist consultants, to reduce the dismissal of symptoms as being psychologically based and to reduce the likelihood of survivors being labeled as malingerers.
  7. Non-means-tested respite care for carers of seriously ill survivors or children with disabilities.
  8. Non-means-tested financial assistance for home & vehicle adaptation for those suffering disability as a result of chemical exposure.
  9. Non-means-tested financial assistance or other provision for those unable to maintain their own homes such as building & garden maintenance assistance.
  10. Independent management, medical, scientific & toxicological investigation of the entire Irish Army Air Corps chemical exposure episode to investigate obvious failures in Health & Safety planning & auditing, lack of or failure of external Health & Safety oversight, failure of the Military Medical Corps to identify serious medical effects of exposure and attempts by the military to cover up knowledge of the dangers known to Air Corps management since at least the 1990s and to further identify & mitigate medical risks faced by exposed personnel.
  11. A military police investigation to determine whether there was a breach of military law by Air Corps management to do with injury to personnel or dereliction of duty.
  12. A reimbursement of vouched medical expenses to date for survivors who have paid their own, their spouses or their children’s related medical expenses.
  13. Non-means-tested financial assistance to those personnel who are unable to work or have suffered severe financial hardship as a result of past or ongoing illnesses or the illnesses / disabilities of their children.

Exposed current & former personnel to include from the following categories

  • Current military personnel
  • Former military personnel
  • Current civilian personnel
  • Former civilian personnel
  • Former civilian work experience students e.g. From the University of Limerick.

Attempts to dismiss serving Air Corps whistleblower on medical grounds ‘not a disciplinary procedure’

JUNIOR MINISTER FOR Defence Paul Kehoe has said that attempts to dismiss a serving Air Corps whistleblower was not a disciplinary matter but was instead a way to ensure the long term health and safety of the member as well as the Defence Forces as a whole.

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.

One of those whistleblowers was brought before St Bricin’s Military Hospital on Wednesday for a check-up. As things stand, he has not been dismissed on medical grounds.

Sinn Féín’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh, who has been following the case closely, said the man in question appeared before a medical hearing yesterday morning for the very reason he met the Minister of State – “that there was something rotten in the Air Corps in terms of health and safety, as he and other whistleblowers had outlined”.

Ó Snodaigh told the Dáíl: “His medical condition and others are directly related to mass exposure to highly toxic and carcinogenic chemicals.”In the last year, TheJournal.ie has reported on a number of elements on this whistleblower case.

Read full article on The Journal website below…

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PDFORRA will back Air Corps whistleblower at hearing

The organisation representing enlisted members of the Defence Forces says it will support the Air Corps whistleblower who is facing possible dismissal at a Medical Board hearing today.

The whistleblower, who has made protected disclosures to Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe, is accused by military superiors of “chronic ineffectivity” due to anxiety and a “work- related industrial dispute”.

He had raised concerns surrounding workers’ exposure to the cancer-causing chemicals used by the Air Corps in cleaning and servicing its aircraft.

A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Authority led to the HSA threatening the Air Corps with legal action unless it implemented its recommendations. The whistleblower also alleged that earlier inspections at Casement Aerodrome in the 1990s produced reports raising concerns with the environment at the Air Corps HQ — and that these documents were destroyed.

In one protected disclosure he wrote that he was the victim of “defamatory allegations” by an official within the Air Corps which the whistleblower believes “was in effect an attempt to rebuke and intimate me, for highlighting genuine safety concerns”.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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Damning silence from political class as whistleblower faces the sack

As the country teeters on the precipice of a snap election over the mistreatment of whistleblower Maurice McCabe, another man who spoke up about wrongs within the public service is facing the sack from the Defence Forces — without a whisper from the majority of the political class.

Tomorrow a whistleblower who spoke out about his concerns for the health of those using cancer-causing chemicals to service the State’s fleet of aircraft is facing potential discharge from the Air Corps.

His charge? “Generalised anxiety disorder and work-related industrial dispute resulting in chronic ineffectivity,” according to the report issued ahead of the Medical Board hearing.

In January 2016, this whistleblower wrote a protected disclosure in which the alleged he was victim to “defamatory allegations” by an official within the Air Corps which the whistle-blower believes “was in effect an attempt to rebuke and intimate me, for highlighting genuine safety concerns”.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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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…

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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…

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