Was the Engine Shop / Avionics complex at Irish Air Corps condemned before demolition?

We revisit an old Parliamentary Question that was never fully resolved.

Personnels say ERF/Avionics was condemned and placed out of bounds, previous junior minister says no record of this.

Perhaps Simon Coveney could “ask someone”?

Written answers – Wednesday 5th July 2017- Department of Defence Properties

Lisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)

269. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason or fault for which a building (details supplied) was condemned and ordered out of bounds to all personnel; the date on which the building was condemned; the person that signed the order condemning the building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31724/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have been advised by the military authorities that it is not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy within the allocated time. However, I have requested that the information be sourced as a matter of urgency and I will reply to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

No further response

Written answers – Thursday 12th October 2017 – Department of Defence Properties

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

188. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason or fault for which a building (details supplied) at Casement Aerodrome, Dublin was condemned and ordered out of bounds to all personnel; the date of condemnation; the person that signed the order condemning the building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43216/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have been advised by the military authorities that the former ERF Avionics building, which was a mixed brick and prefabricated structure, was demolished in 2009 as a direct result of the completion of more permanent, bespoke designed workshops in 2007.

They have further advised that following a review of records at the relevant locations within the Defence Forces that no known documentation exists indicating that this building was ever condemned or placed out of bounds prior to being demolished.

*****

The ERF / Avionics complex was highly contaminated and placed out of bounds in September 2007. Air Corps engineers where also actually fearful that the building would collapse during use.

However, in 2008 rooms on the Avionics side were pressed into use as indoor training areas for the Air Corps College. These indoor training areas shared contaminated air with ERF through interlinked open attic spaces thus further exposing personnel in an unprotected manner to dangerous chemical fumes such as dichloromethane.

Also in 2008 personnel who served in ERF sought their medical files from the Defence Forces and subsequently in early 2009 the building was demolished. 

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 16/12/20 – “Not an Outdoor Gymnasium” adjacent to Spray Paint Exhaust

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

QUESTION NO: 149

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the person or body that chose the installation location of the recently installed outdoor gymnasium at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, County Dublin. [43855/20]

QUESTION NO: 150

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the way in which the Air Corps formation safety office allowed a leisure facility such as the new outdoor gymnasium at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, County Dublin, to be installed 15 m to 20 m from the low level exhaust stack of the Air Corps spray paint facility; if the exhaust stack routinely emits chemicals that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction; and if he has full confidence in the current Air Corps chemicals health and safety regime. [43856/20]

QUESTION NO: 151

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the cost of the new outdoor gym; the cost of installation; and the potential cost of relocating it to a safer alternative location at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, County Dublin. [43857/20]

Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 to 151, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will be aware that three protected disclosures were received in late 2015 and January 2016 in relation to the Air Corps. Legal advice was sought and an independent reviewer was appointed. The Reviewer’s independent report considered the Defence Forces health and safety regime, its current policy and its application. Although the report found that the Defence Forces regime appears to be capable of meeting statutory requirements, it makes a number of observations; including in relation to documentation, health surveillance, and exposure monitoring. It also notes that the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is the appropriate statutory body to deal with such allegations. The report of the independent reviewer was provided to the individuals who made the protected disclosures and it was also published on the Department of Defence website.

In parallel to the independent review, following an inspection in 2016 by the HSA, the Air Corps had continued to work with the HSA to improve its health and safety regime. The HSA has formally noted the considerable progress made to-date by the Defence Forces towards implementation of a safety management system for the control of hazardous substances. The HSA has now closed its investigation. However, it must be noted that in the Air Corps health and safety is a matter of ongoing monitoring, supervision and adjustment.

I am advised by my military authorities that the facility referred to by the Deputy is in fact an outdoor training area as distinct from an outdoor Gym. This equipment was installed at a cost of €21,918 including the necessary site works. I am further advised that the Defence Forces do not plan to relocate the equipment elsewhere as they are not aware of any safety concerns pertaining to the current location.

*****

The Air Corps base at Baldonnel, Co. Dublin comprises several hundred hectares of space. That the Air Corps could install an outdoor training facility within metres of the exhaust stack of the Spray Paint Facility either shows a staggering level of confidence in the filtration capabilities of the extraction system or utter incompetence.

The outdoor training facility or “not an outdoor gym” is built on the site of the old Avionics/Engine Shop complex which was demolished when sick personnel who worked in the location started to seek their medical files. Prior to demolition the building was condemned and marked out of bounds but the minister as denied it was ever condemned in previous parliamentary questions. 

Dangerous chemicals routinely emitted by the Air Corps spray paint facility include the following that are highly dangerous to human health and especially dangerous to the health of pregnant females and their unborn child as they are capable of causing genetic mutational harm leading to congenital birth defects.

        • acetone
        • cyclohexane
        • ethylbenzene
        • heptane
        • hexamethylene diisocyanate
        • hexane
        • methyl acetate
        • methyl ethyl ketone
        • phenol
        • stoddard solvent
        • toluene
        • xylene
        • zinc chromate

For decades these very same chemicals exited this low level exhaust stack, blew across the road and into the windows of Avionics Squadron & Engine Repair Flight likely harming health and likely contributing to the untimely deaths of multiple personnel in both locations. 

DELAY – DENY – DIE

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

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

QUESTION NO: 133

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the health and safety management system reports and or audits carried out on the Air Corps by the State Claims Agency in each of the years 2006 to 2015; the year and author of each report and or audit in the timeframe; if the reports have been published and or classified as confidential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. 1180/19

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I am advised by the State Claims Agency that it has a statutory remit under the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act 2000 to provide risk management advices to Delegated State Authorities. Such risk management advices include the provision of Health & Safety Management System audits, inspections and reviews.

From this, State Claims Agency conducted a number of Health & Safety Management System Defence Forces audits within the Air Corps between the years 2006 – 2015. The Reports are authored by the State Claims Agency and are confidential between the Agency and their Client.

*****

The State Claims Agency audited the Irish Air Corps for a decade before the Health & Safety Authority were forced to intervene and stop the ongoing CMR & toxic chemical exposure of the Baldonnel workforce.

The HSA file was opened in January 2016 and was only closed in September 2018 but the “superb” health and safety performance of the Air Corps for the decade prior to HSA intervention helped the State Claims Agency & NTMA staff earn discretionary performance-related payments.

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 18/12/18 – Irish Air Corps – State Claims Agency Audits

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

QUESTION NO: 119

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the State Claims Agency supplied the Health and Safety Authority with copies of its audits and or reports regarding the Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. 53026/18

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have been advised by the State Claims Agency that it does not provide reports of Health and Safety Management System Audits conducted by the Agency in Delegated State Authorities (including the Defence Forces) to the Health and Safety Authority. I am advised that these are provided to the Delegated State Authorities only.

With regard to the Air Corps, the Deputy will be aware that the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), following a number of inspections in 2016, issued a Report of Inspection to the Air Corps on the 21st October 2016, listing a number of matters requiring attention which included the areas of risk assessment.

The Air Corps as a consequence of this HSA report have implemented an improvement plan which is being conducted over eight phases. Seven of the eight phases have now been fully completed. The final phase is a continuous on-going process. The implementation plan focuses on a number of areas, including risk assessment.

I wish to assure the Deputy that the health and welfare of the Defence Forces personnel is a high priority for me and the military authorities.

*****

For 10 years BEFORE the Heath & Safety Authority were forced to investigate the Irish Air Corps, due to the ongoing safety risks to personnel, the State Claims Agency had been carrying out Health & Safety Risk Management System audits at Baldonnel. 

In the eyes of the State Claims Agency the Irish Air Corps risk profile was continuously improving whilst personnel on the ground were still being exposed to toxic & CMR chemicals without appropriate PPE or training causing lifelong injures to themselves and their children. 

It is now obvious that the State Claims Agency audits were incompetent  especially considering it took the Health & Safety Authority 2 years and 9 months to close their investigation file on the Irish Air Corps.

The State Claims Agency audits need to be released to the Oireachtas without delay.

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 18/12/18 – Irish Air Corps – Legal Cases

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

QUESTION NO: 117

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of open cases the State Claims Agency is handling in respect of the Air Corps, its staff and former staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. 53027/18

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I am advised by the State Claims Agency that their reports indicate that currently the Agency is managing 21 active compensation claims in respect of the Air Corps where it is alleged that a staff member is the injured party.

Given that litigation is on-going, the Deputy will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment further in relation to these claims.

*****

Considering the limited media coverage of this scandal to date, this figure can only be expected to climb as serving & former personnel become aware that their ongoing health issues are likely a result of unprotected toxic chemical exposure whilst serving in the Irish Air Corps.

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities can drive sufferers into poverty as well as ill health

Consider the trappings of modern life: Calvin Klein Eternity, gasoline, Gore-Tex, hairspray, paint, particle board, polyurethane iPod cases.

Now imagine that you’re allergic to virtually all of them.

Environmentalists usually think about chemical toxicity as either a dramatic local crisis (Bhopal, Love Canal) or the simmering concern of those far away (breast-feeding mothers in the Arctic) or far in the future (our oft-evoked grandchildren). But for people suffering from Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, the chemical crisis is already here. Indeed, thanks to industrialisation, it is already everywhere. And, like so many environment-related health issues, it disproportionately affects the poor and, moreover, drives many once financially stable people into poverty.

As a disease, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities doesn’t have an official case definition yet (more on this soon), but rather refers to a broad range of adverse symptoms brought on by an even more broad array of everyday chemicals. These symptoms are often provoked at exposure levels far below those that seem to affect the rest of the population — levels virtually always present in our homes, workplaces, and social venues. They commonly include severe headaches, food intolerance, difficulty breathing, nausea, irritation of the eyes, ears, nose, throat, and skin, and disorientation or confusion, but there are many more.

Current theories range from a genetic predisposition to chemical injury, to neurological damage, to abnormalities in detoxifying enzymes, to a so-called “toxicant-induced loss of tolerance” to environmental stressors, in which one particular exposure to a toxic substance overwhelms a person’s system and leaves them unable to cope with exposures to a wide range of other toxins.

It can be even more difficult finding an MCS-safe job. Even if a workplace itself is a tolerable environment (rare, given the ubiquity of toxic building materials), basic job-related interactions with the general public can be impossible. “The way a typical story goes,” says Zwillinger, “is that people lose the ability to make a living because they can’t be out in the public arena” without getting ill. Some MCS patients find a way to work from home (assuming they’ve found safe housing) — but that option is seldom available to poorer Americans forced to rely on low-wage, low-skill jobs.

It’s a bitter irony, since many with MCS see themselves as canaries in the modern-day coal mine. As recently as 1986, the exquisitely sensitive yellow birds were used to detect the presence of dangerous gases in mine shafts, and when they showed signs of illness — when they ceased to sing — it was an unambiguous warning: evacuate.

As growing numbers of MCS sufferers are driven from their homes and jobs, pushed to the fringes of medical science and the brink of financial ruin, made sick by industrialised civilisation itself, we would do well to heed their equally urgent warning. And fast, because this time around we can’t evacuate. There’s nowhere else to go.

Read the full article on Grist

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Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors are the canary in the coalmine for inflammatory illness being caused by ubiquitous chemical exposure in our home, work, vehicles, food & clothing. 

The appalling high concentration chemical exposure suffered by Air Corps personnel caused chemical related illnesses in young fit men & women in a very short space of time making us a very valuable cluster for medicine & science to study.

Study us, fix us and there will be a public health dividend. 

Mental Health and the Irish Air Corp illness cluster

A new report by Mental Health Reform, the national coalition on mental health in Ireland, has found strong public support for increased State investment in mental health services.

A survey carried out by the coalition found that 84% of respondents thought that the health service places too little focus on mental health.

The study found that the public are willing to invest more in mental healthcare when compared to other related healthcare programmes.

Mental Health Reform says staffing in mental health services is lower now than it was in 2008 and it is calling on the Government to boost investment in the area.

Note the graph below only includes personnel for whom we have death certificates for. We are in the process of verifying many more deaths, most of which relate to the earlier decades.

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Prevention is better than cure.

If the government bother to medically & scientifically investigate the mental health illness cluster at the #IrishAirCorps where at least 13 serving & former personnel have killed themselves since 1980 they might learn something about environmental causes & triggers of mental health problems.

We suspect hydrocarbon fuels, engine exhausts, isocyanates, VOCs etc all have a part to play and the civilian population get exposed to these too but usually at lower levels.

So far the state have only sent in barristers. Think about it 65 men dead at an average age of 49 years and all the state can mobilise is barristers.

In the absence of military or government statistics on untimely deaths in the Irish Air Corps we created our own. We are happy to have these tested or even proven wrong by better statistics gathered by the state in a comprehensive, open and transparent manner. #WeAreNotStatisticians