Dáil Éireann – 4th July 2019 – Public Accounts Committee – Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Exposure

Catherine Murphy T.D. (Kildare North)Public Accounts Committee

Watch Deputy Catherine Murphy question Mr. Ciaran Breen, Director of the State Claims Agency and Mr. Pat Kirwan,  Head of Enterprise Risk, also at the State Claims Agency, about the failure of a decade of Risk Management Section, Heath & Safety Management System audits at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

The State Claims Agency audits at Baldonnel commenced in 2006 and continued as the Irish Air Corps were investigated by the Health & Safety Authority in 2016 for serious breaches of the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005. Breaches that including the very basic failure to provide PPE or chemical training.

It took the threat of legal action by the Health & Safety Authority as well as 2 years & 9 months of intervention to finally close the HSA file on what their own inspectors described as the most serious case of chemical misuse in the history of the state.

It should be noted that the State Claims Agency were not only aware from 2013 that the unprotected chemical exposures at Baldonnel were an ONGOING LIVE ISSUE, but bizarrely failed to intervene to prevent further exposure once this knowledge was in their possession.

It took the actions of three whistle-blowers in 2015 to bring the ongoing toxic chemical Health & Safety failures at the Irish Air Corps to the attention of the Minister for Defence and also to the attention of the Health & Safety Authority.

Why did the State Claims Agency fail to notice the high rate of untimely mortality, the high rate of suicide, the high rate of sick leave, the lack of PPE records and the lack of any chemical training records in 10 years of supposed audits.

Why did the State Claims Agency fail to act in 2013 when they did become aware that personnel were still being needlessly exposed to dangerous chemicals without PPE and without any chemical safety training?

Dáil Éireann – 8th November 2018 – Public Accounts Committee

Catherine Murphy T.D. (Kildare North)

Public Accounts Committee

Deputy Murphy questions Mr. Ciaran Breen the Director of the State Claims Agency, regarding the agency’s stance on claims taken agains the Irish Air Corps regarding unprotected toxic chemicla exposure.

 

Dáil Éireann – Oral Question 38 – 26th June 2018 – Irish Air Corps Protected Disclosure

Mr. Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South-Central )

Question No. 38

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he has received a protected disclosure from a member of the  Defence Forces (details supplied); if he has responded to the disclosure; and the action that has been taken on foot of the disclosure. — Aengus Ó Snodaigh. [27762/18]

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To be clear Minister Paul Kehoe & Taoiseach Leo Varadkar received this Protected Disclosure in December 2017, issued a receipt and have ignored since. 

Dáil Éireann – Oral Question 7 – 10th May 2018 – Irish Air Corps Survivors

Mr. Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South-Central )

Question No. 7

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the Chemical Exposure Report 1994-2005 will be released in order to provide former members of the Air Corps who are now chronically ill with information relating to the level of exposure they suffered in view of his recent call for candour and transparency in cases regarding the health of persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter

This relates to a matter that has been ongoing for a while. Given the current controversy around the checks for cervical cancer, there is a need for transparency in publishing reports that will help people suffering health consequences so they can manage future health needs.

Irish Prime Minister condemns Irish Army Air Corps chemical exposure survivors to death.

  • Thousands unnecessarily exposed
  • Scores dead
  • Scores sick
  • Taoiseach says best for courts to investigate
  • Courts don’t investigate, they adjudicate
  • Irish Air Corps appealing chemical list discovery to delay cases
  • 2 untimely deaths since Christmas as at 07/02/18

 

 

I am passing you a list of 56 verified deaths of Irish Air Corps colleagues

A NEW PROTECTED disclosure has been sent to Defence Minister Paul Kehoe detailing a number of “verified deaths” of those allegedly affected by the Air Corps chemical scandal.

It’s the contention of a number of Air Corps members, who have since retired, that the effects of the chemicals they handled as part of their work contributed to dozens of workers at the Baldonnel Airfield becoming ill.

In a protected disclosure made by one of the workers last 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 previous protected disclosure, are living with life-changing illnesses and, in some cases, have died.

But a new disclosure, submitted last week, claims that the number of untimely deaths from the scandal has “grown exponentially”.

Read full article on The Journal website below…

Delay – Deny – Die

Dáil Éireann – Other Question 11 – 24th January 2018 – Irish Air Corps Whistle-blower

Lisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)

Other Question No. 11

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the further action he plans to take in relation to Air Corps whistle-blowers.

Dáil Éireann – Priority Question 2 – 24th January 2018 – Irish Air Corps – Toxic Chemical Exposure Health Audit

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

Priority Question No. 2

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to carry out a medical or health audit of serving and former members of the Air Corps similar to that undertaken in Australia in order to identify those that may have been exposed on an ongoing basis to toxic chemicals during their service. [3490/18]

Dáil Éireann Leader’s Questions 30/11/17 – Irish Air Corps

Brendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)

In addition to his other duties the Taoiseach has retained for himself the role of Minister for Defence. It is not clear to me that he takes any real responsibility for the area of Defence. It is not acceptable for a Cabinet Minister to simply delegate the entire responsibility for a Government Department to a Minister of State. The Taoiseach does not answer parliamentary questions on the matter. I do not know if he attends monthly management meetings of the leadership team of the Department of Defence or if he regularly attends meetings with the Secretary General or other senior officials of the Department.

He seems to be sidestepping personal responsibility for his Department. Very serious issues are arising. The wives and partners of Defence Forces personnel are outside the gates of Leinster House this morning to continue to highlight some of these issues, in particular the clear fact that many members are leaving because they cannot live on current earnings. The Tánaiste will tell the House that the matter is being examined by a public sector pay commission, but the Government was happy to act unilaterally in respect of the new Garda Commissioner and the highly paid academics we needed to attract. I believe genuinely that the Government would find consensus in the House for a bespoke pay review for the Defence Forces, which is warranted and urgently required. I cannot understand why it is willing to recognise the Garda associations in pay negotiations but will not do the same for the representative associations of Defence Forces’ personnel.

Reports this week have made it clear that an Air Corps whistleblower faces discharge from the Defence Forces. That a serving member of the Defence Forces can face disciplinary action for chronic inactivity, as it was stated, following a work-related industrial dispute is disconcerting, in particular when it is reported that he has told the Minister of State that he was targeted for raising safety concerns. Mr. Christopher O’Toole has been appointed to examine protected disclosures on the working environment at Casement Aerodrome. It is reported that the terms of reference he was given were impractical. This is all the more concerning now that we know the State Claims Agency carried out a number of health and safety management audits of the Defence Forces and that the Defence Forces can only offer speculative explanations for why prior inspection reports from Casement Aerodrome have gone missing. That is unsatisfactory, especially in the light of the fact that copies of these documents are in circulation among politicians and the media. Efforts to establish whether the documents were deliberately destroyed have amounted to asking the Defence Forces to investigate themselves.

What action will the Government take to ensure every member of the Defence Forces will earn at least a living wage? Will it commit to recognising Defence Forces’ associations in pay negotiations? Is it satisfied that the Defence Forces’ members who met the Minister of State, Deputy Paul Kehoe, to discuss these concerns are receiving the full protection warranted under the Protected Disclosures Act? Has it considered the establishment of a commission of investigation to establish whether the health and safety management regime at Casement Aerodrome meets the standards of the day and whether the allegations have any credibility?

Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)

The Deputy has asked a lot of questions. If I do not get to all of them on the floor of the House, I will respond having spoken to the Minister of State with responsibility for defence matters. I am personally familiar with some of the cases referred to and previous whistleblowers in relation to issues at Casement Aerodrome. I commit to coming back to the Deputy in detail on these issues.

Brendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)

That is appreciated.

Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)

The Government may have to make decisions on future actions there and we await recommendations from the Minister of State in that regard. It is something in which I have taken a personal interest and of which I have some knowledge, but I cannot go into the detail on the floor of the Dáil.

Seán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)

It needs to happen on the floor of the Dáil.

 

Alan Kelly (Tipperary,Labour)

Look at what happened in the last week.

Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)

There will be answers to these questions.

On the wives and partners of Defence Forces’ personnel who are making a point today, I note that successful negotiations with the Permanent Defence Force representative associations have led to significant pay increases under the Lansdowne Road agreement for Defence Forces’ personnel. The public service stability agreement for the period 2018 to 2020 provides for a series of further pay increases in the next three years. Given the ministerial offices Deputy Brendan Howlin has held, he will know of the difficulty in separating one sector from all others for special treatment in public sector pay, but that is what he is asking us to do. There are other issues about what the Department of Defence can do about other supports available to Defence Forces’ personnel. There have been reviews in that regard. There are many sectors in the economy and society that can make a very valid case for improved pay and working conditions. I understand that, of course, the Defence Forces will make that case for themselves through the representative organisations and, in this case, private family members. Of course, the Government will listen. However, we have to operate within a certain pay structure across the public sector. If we were to start to dismantle it for individual sectors, the Deputy knows of the chaos it would cause.

As a former Minister for Defence, I record the Government’s strong appreciation of the role the Defence Forces play. I have visited many peacekeeping missions around the world and had the privilege to spend time with families who have lost loved ones in the service of the country in the Defence Forces. They are valued. We are building personnel numbers in the Defence Forces and the recruitment campaign is a success. We are adding substantially more personnel to the Defence Forces than we are losing and will continue to see that trend develop into 2018.

Brendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)

I appreciate the Tánaiste’s reply and understand he cannot give me a comprehensive response on the Casement Aerodrome issues. I look forward to either a direct briefing or a written response in due course. I have full knowledge of pay issues in dealing with the public service as a whole, but there is a compelling case to be made for separating out the Defence Forces for a bespoke review. I say this in the full knowledge of how difficult it would be. The shockingly low pay levels across the sector are having an impact on retention in key skills areas. When these difficulties arose in the health sector, we managed to formulate a way to deal with them. For example, we had a formula for skilled nurses. We need to recognise what is happening. The fact that the people concerned are not allowed to manifest their voices publicly does not mean that they should be ignored. As such, I ask whether consideration will be given to a unique pay review within the Defence Forces and outside the Public Sector Pay Commission.

Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)

The Minister of State with responsibility for defence matters tells me that this is happening in the context of having special skill sets within the Defence Forces. It is important to note, having regard to the broader arrangements in place, that combined increases in recent months for new recruits have ranged from 8% to 24%, depending on the point on which they are on the pay scales. We are seeing an economy which can afford to pay the public sector more. The bodies which represent members of the Defence Forces have bought into and want to be part of negotiations and their members are starting to benefit, but that is not to suggest there is no frustration in the Defence Forces. However, across the public sector, including within the Defence Forces, deals negotiated with representative bodies mean that we will see continuous improvements in pay into the future, which is positive.

On the Air Corps, the Minister of State has only recently received observations and replies from the three individuals who made protected disclosures on the independent review report which he had commissioned and forwarded to them. Having received responses on the report from the three individuals, the Minister of State will have to make recommendations to the Government. We will make decisions on whether further action is required.

Alan Kelly (Tipperary,Labour)

The Taoiseach is the Minister.

 

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DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann – Questions from Opposition Leaders or their representatives to the Government – 30th November 2017