Air Corps whistleblower’s decision to retire “demonstrates a dysfunction in the complaints process”

The Irish Examiner revealed today that the whistle-blower – one of three who has previously raised concerns about staff’s exposure to chemicals – has announced his decision to retire early.

His decision comes two months after telling Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe that he has not received assurances from Defence Forces hierarchy that he is not being targeted for making protected disclosures.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said a list of deaths compiled by one Air Corps whistle-blower requires explanation.

The list, the existence of which was previously reported in this newspaper, contains the details of more than 70 deaths of former Air Corps staff that the whistle-blower believes may be connected to chemical exposures at the force’s headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.

She described the revelation that a whistle-blower is to retire early as ‘shocking’.

“I’m very concerned about the treatment of whistle-blowers and people making disclosures, as some arms of the public service are not dealing with them as comprehensively or fairly as they should,” Ms Murphy said.

Fianna Fáil Defence spokesman, Jack Chambers, said the whistle-blower’s decision “demonstrates a dysfunction in the complaints process” and will act as a deterrent to anyone else who is thinking about coming forward.

“This is symptomatic of the general malaise that has been allowed to fester within the Defence Forces under the current Minister. Whistle-blowers who feel that their only next option is to retire demonstrates a dysfunction in the complaints process and it certainly doesn’t encourage others who have issues of concern from engaging with the process.”

Air corps whistleblower was ‘isolated, vilified’

An air corps whistle-blower has written to the Defence Forces Chief of Staff to inform him of his decision to retire early over what he has claimed is the authority’s failure to protect him.

The decision comes two months after the whistle-blower wrote to junior defence minister Paul Kehoe complaining of the “unwarranted treatment” he has received since he submitted a protected disclosure on health-and-safety issues.

In this communication with Mr Kehoe, the whistle blower included signed statements from two air corps personnel, the contents of which, he said, were evidence of an attempt by those in authority to “isolate and vilify” him and turn his colleagues against him.

He is one of three whistle blowers to make complaints about the chemical exposure suffered by air corps maintenance staff, the details of which were first revealed by the Irish Examiner two years ago.

The commanding officer further pointed to previous complaints made against him by the whistle-blower, which he said constitutes “a consistent pattern of vindictive and bullying behaviour” against him.

The commanding officer further pointed to previous complaints made against him by the whistle-blower, which he said constitutes “a consistent pattern of vindictive and bullying behaviour” against him.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…


If said commanding officer felt he was targeted by a consistent pattern of vindictive and bullying behaviour by a subordinate the Defence Forces have measures in place to deal with such behaviour through military law.

If the commanding officer didn’t act to use existing disciplinary mechanisms against his subordinate why did he introduce such complaints when he himself was being investigated? 

Delay – Deny – Die

Department of Defence coy on probe of bullying claims

An air corps whistleblower has been told that it is “difficult to envisage” how the Department of Defence would investigate complaints of bullying made in a protected disclosure about chemical exposure within the force.

The protected disclosure, seen by the Irish Examiner, contains allegations that the whistle-blower was doused in chemicals used to service aircraft as an initiation, and was frequently exposed to chemicals without protective equipment as he carried out his duties in the Engine Shop at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

He alleges that he became ill while still serving in the air corps, but was targeted by superiors for his frequent absences due to sickness.

His complaints match those of a number of other whistleblowers, and the State is currently facing at least seven separate legal actions from former air corps staff who claim they are chronically ill due to their exposure to chemicals at Casement Aerodrome.

A Government-commissioned report by former civil servant Christopher O’Toole into earlier whistleblower disclosures found there was no documentation available to demonstrate that the air corps met its health and safety obligations.

The latest whistleblower called on the Government to launch a fresh review into the complaints about conditions in Casement Aerodrome, and asked that his allegations of bullying be considered as part of this probe.

“My allegations need to be investigated in full as part of a wider investigation into the air corps chemical exposure scandal and the subsequent bullying and mistreatment of personnel injured by the same chemical exposure,” states the whistle blower.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 04/05/17 – Irish Army Air Corps – WRC Settlement

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the Air Corps made a settlement in the Workplace Relations Commission on 19 April 2017 as compensation for the bullying and mistreatment of an Air Corps health and safety whistle blower that had raised workplace safety concerns; the way the robust anti-bullying controls he previously mentioned appear not to be working in practice within the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20007/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

As the Deputy may be aware, any proceedings before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) are handled confidentially, therefore, I cannot comment in either the positive or negative in any matter which may come within the jurisdiction of the WRC. Indeed, the WRC will not publish details of any individual case or the identity of any applicant. As regards the procedures in place within the Defence Forces to deal with bullying I would like to reiterate that it is Defence Forces policy that all personnel have a right to be treated with respect, equality and dignity and to carry out their duties free from any form of bullying, harassment or sexual harassment. While military life entails robust and effective military training, such training must, however, take place in a professional service environment that fully respects individual human dignity. Bullying and harassment of any kind are wrong and are not tolerated within the Defence Forces. They are entirely unacceptable in themselves and wholly incompatible with a successful and modern organisation.

All known incidents of such behaviour are properly investigated bearing in mind the need for due process which requires fairness to all parties to the complaint. Through the induction process and general notifications, the non-tolerance of unacceptable behaviour is stressed to all members of the Defence Forces. The formal and informal procedures in force are there to encourage any individual who wishes to make a complaint. Procedures for dealing with complaints of Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Harassment are set out in Defence Forces Regulations. Complaints of unacceptable behaviour can be dealt with at different levels, either in an informal approach or formal manner. The overall aim is to ensure that the complaint is dealt with, in the first instance, at the lowest level possible. Informal complaints can be resolved directly by the complainant with the assistance of a third party if required. Such third party can include any member of the Defence Forces who has the trust and confidence of the complainant. Specially trained Designated Contact Persons (DCPs) are also available to assist complainants.

The formal procedure requires that a complaint is made in writing. These are dealt with by the military chain of command either through the legal/disciplinary process or by administrative action.

No disciplinary proceedings have been taken by Irish Army Air Corps management against the perpetrators of the bullying & mistreatment of the Health & Safety whistle-blower because the perpetrators are Irish Army Air Corps Management