French court upholds guilty verdict against Monsanto over poisoning of farmer who used its weedkiller

A FRENCH COURT has upheld a guilty verdict against chemical giant Monsanto over the poisoning of a farmer who suffered neurological damage after using one of its weedkillers.

Irish Air Corps – Non Destructive Testing Facility – 17th December 2007

Cereal farmer Paul Francois has been fighting Monsanto, a former US company which was bought by Germany’s Bayer last year, for the past 12 years. In the first ruling of its kind against Monsanto anywhere in the world, a French court in 2012 found it guilty of poisoning Francois.

He said he began experiencing symptoms including blackouts, headaches and loss of balance and memory after inhaling fumes while using the now-banned weedkiller Lasso.

Monsanto appealed and lost in 2015. However, it decided to go a third round. “I won, and I’m happy, but at what cost?” Francois told reporters after the verdict. He denounced what he called years of “legal harassment” by Monsanto.

‘Not a chemist’

Francois said he fell ill in 2004 after accidentally inhaling fumes from a vat containing Lasso, a monochlorobenzene-based weedkiller that was legal in France until 2007. However, it had already been banned in 1985 in Canada and in 1992 in Belgium and Britain.

He argued that Monsanto was aware of Lasso’s dangers long before it was withdrawn from the French market, and sought damages of more than €1 million for chronic neurological damage that required long hospital stays.

The court in Lyon, southeastern France, rejected the company’s appeal but did not rule on how much Monsanto might have to pay, which will be determined in a separate ruling. It did order the company to pay €50,000 immediately for Francois’s legal fees.

In its ruling, the court found that Monsanto should have clearly indicated on Lasso’s labelling and instructions for use “a notice on the specific dangers of using the product in vats and reservoirs”.

The plaintiff’s assumed technical knowledge does not excuse the lack of information on the product and its harmful effects – a farmer is not a chemist.

Read full article on the Journal website below…

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French judges appear to show common sense. The State Claims Agency has managed to successfully argue in an Irish Court that military aircraft mechanics in the Irish Air Corps with ZERO medical training were able to diagnose themselves with chemical injure thus starting the statute clock and allowing a case to be dismissed as statute barred.

The State Claims Agency argued that an Air Corps technician attending a doctor and asking “did chemicals harm me” and doctor replying “maybe or maybe not” means the technician had “knowledge” that the chemicals had  actually harmed him.

As we appeal up the food chain of the Irish Judicial system common sense will prevail against the financial & legal might that is the State Claims Agency.  Right is Might.

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Minster Kehoe ‘satisfied’ with Air Corps audits

The Junior Defence Minister said he is “fully satisfied” the State Claims Agency (SCA) can adequately carry out health audits in the Air Corps despite a separate workplace safety watchdog finding a series of failings at Casement Aerodrome after a decade of annual inspections by the SCA.

Mr Kehoe gave his backing to the SCA after he told the Dáil that the agency “conducted a number of Health and Safety Management System Defence Forces audits within the Air Corps between the years 2006-2015”.

The whistle-blower complaints also prompted an independent review. In his report, the reviewer said “a problem has arisen in relation to the issues raised by the three informants because appropriate records to demonstrate compliance are not readily available”.

The SCA’s audits were not made available to the reviewer, nor was an internal Air Corps report, seen by this newspaper, which raised concerns about staff exposure to the cancer-causing chemical trichloroethylene.

The SCA is currently defending 21 court cases against the Air Corps, including a number from ex-personnel who say their exposure to chemicals at Casement Aerodrome led to serious illnesses.

Mr Kehoe revealed the decade of SCA audits in response to a parliamentary question from Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, who was critical of the decision not to release reports.

“Time and time again the minister states that the health and welfare of the Defence Forces personnel is a high priority for him and the military authorities. This may be the case, but the health and welfare of all future recruits and contractors should be too,” Ms Murphy told the Irish Examiner.

“Health and Safety reports should not be shrouded in secrecy. It is an area of expertise of the Health and Safety Authority, perhaps they should really be leading on this, I question whether the State Claims Agency in the past provided an adequate service and applied robust enough tests to the working environment at Baldonnel.”

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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In the interests of transparency, Minister Kehoe should release all the State Claims Agency Health & Safety Management System Audits of Baldonnel with immediate effect.

If the audits were carried out to an adequate standard what has Minister Kehoe got to hide?

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Dáil Éireann Written Answers 15/01/19 – Irish Air Corps – State Claims Agency Bonus Pay

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

QUESTION NO: 217

To ask the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 146 of 18 December 2018, if the National Treasury Management Agency will provide a breakdown of all discretionary performance related payments in tabular form (details supplied); the highest discretionary performance related payments made to a single employee in each of the years 2006 to 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied- Email sent 07/01/19 at 14:57) to include the details of discretionary performance-related payments for the following years 2006 to 2012 inclusive to include the overall total amount of remuneration and the number of employees per year that shared extra remuneration; and if the NTMA will indicate the highest discretionary performance-related payments made to a single employee in each years. 1179/19

Paschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)

The response to the deputy is set out in the table.

YearTotal Bonus PayNumber of Benefiting EmployeesAverage per Benefiting EmployeeHighest Individual Bonus Pay
2006€2,807,229116€24,200
€377,000
2007€3,165,551138€22,939
€403,000
2008€3,459,751161€21,489€395,500
2009€2,751,361167€16,475€200,000
2010€1,981,760258€6,945€40,000
2011€62,6105€12,522€30,000
2012€43,1006€7,183€25,000

Notes

  • In respect of the years 2006-2010, the details provided have been compiled by the NTMA following the retrieval and review of available historical hard-copy documentation.
  • Details of the total amount paid in discretionary performance related pay along with the number of staff in receipt of these payments have been published in the NTMA Annual Report for the years 2010 to 2017 (the NTMA’s most recent Annual Report).

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State Claims Agency audited the Health & Safety Management Systems of the Irish Air Corps for a decade before the Health & Safety Authority intervened to prevent serious ongoing harm to Air Corps personnel. 

Over the course of this decade of auditing, the “risk profile” of the Irish Air Corps improved year on year. These “paperwork” improvements in risk profile were subsequently part of the remuneration process for personnel in the State Claims Agency and the National Treasury Management Agency

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Dáil Éireann – Public Accounts Committee – 08/11/18

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

I will move on to another area regarding the State Claims Agency. It relates to the Air Corps. The Air Corps used to hold information in relation to health and safety. Deputy Ó Snodaigh looked for information and stated it was misplaced. Subsequently, there was a court case. There were some whistleblowers. The State Claims Agency stated that no admission was made that the defendants exposed the plaintiff to dangerous chemicals or solvents, and that is the nub of what it relates to.

The State Claims Agency stated that it could confidently claim that there were no injuries due to any act or omission on its part and yet there was no documentation that could provide that confidence. Subsequently, there was a report, the O’Toole report, which stated that the records to demonstrate health and safety compliance are not readily available.

In such a situation where there is the absence of information, how can the State Claims Agency state it can confidently predict or state something when records were not available?

Mr. Ciarán Breen (State Claims Agency)

I apologise Chairman, I did not realise we were going to examine the general indemnity scheme. Generally, I am vaguely familiar with the particular case. While I do not have the exact facts or recollection of it, I am guessing that the reason we confidently stated what we did was either because of where the person was working or we had come to an independent view informed by the Air Corps around those liability issues. I really cannot put it further than that.

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

Could Mr. Breen follow up with a note on it?

 

Mr. Ciarán Breen (State Claims Agency)

I will certainly. Maybe afterwards, the Deputy might give me the name of the case and I will follow it up.

 

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The State Claims Agency were aware from late 2013 / early 2014 that the Health &  Safety failings at Baldonnel were in fact an “ongoing” issue and not just a “legacy” issue and failed to intervene by requesting the services of the HSA to protect Air Corps personnel. It took the actions of whistle-blowers at the end of 2015 before the HSA intervened in 2016 to improve Air Corps Health & Safety. 

The State Claims Agency Risk Management branch had been carrying out “Safety Management Systems” audits of the Irish Air Corps, in selected units and at formation level, for a decade before the Health & Safety Authority were forced to intervene to protect personnel from ongoing CMR chemical exposures in 2016.

The NTMA operates a discretionary performance-related payments scheme for eligible employees, which includes staff assigned to the State Claims Agency. The scheme rewards exceptional performance having regard to the employee’s own performance, the performance of the employee’s area of responsibility and the overall performance of the NTMA. Performance-related payments are made in accordance with parameters approved by the Agency’s non-executive Remuneration Committee.

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Dáil Éireann Written Answers 05/12/17 – State Claims Agency

Seán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)

QUESTION NO: 141

Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if personnel employed by the State Claims Agency branch of the National Treasury Management Agency are eligible for bonus payments; and if so, the way in which these bonuses are structured and attained. [51615/17]

Paschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) has informed me that it operates a discretionary performance-related payments scheme for eligible employees, which includes staff assigned to the State Claims Agency.

The scheme rewards exceptional performance having regard to the employee’s own performance, the performance of the employee’s area of responsibility and the overall performance of the NTMA. Performance-related payments are made in accordance with parameters approved by the Agency’s non-executive Remuneration Committee.

The overall amount of performance related payments made in respect of any year is also subject to the approval of the Remuneration Committee.

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Did “improvements” to Air Corps Health & Safety Risk Management Profile influence  bonus payments to State Claims Agency staff

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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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Enterprise Risk Management Recognition for the Defence Forces

Defence Forces personnel being presented with certificates from the State Claims Agency in McKee Barracks in recognition of compliance with health and safety management system audit process.

In photo from left to right: Comdt Thomas Farrell (OC Gormanston, Defence Forces), Sgt Gerald O’Gorman (Unit Safety Officer, 30 Inf Bn, Kilkenny, Defence Forces), Fiona Kearns (Senior Enterprise Risk Manager, SCA), Comdt Noel Maher (Defence Force Safety Officer), Cpl Ross Hayden (Unit Safety Officer Air Corps Military Training College), Ciarán Breen (Director, SCA), Brig Gen Peter O’Halloran Assistant Chief Of Staff, Capt Bronagh McMorrow (Unit Safety Officer CIS Group DFTC), Pat Kirwan (Deputy Director, SCA), Comdt Conor Ryan (Formation Safety Officer, DFTC), Paul Burke (Enterprise Risk Manager, SCA)

See State Claims Agency 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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