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…
Delay – Deny – Die
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.
- 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.
- A non-means-tested medical card for all exposed current & former personnel to include spouses & children.
- A non-means-tested free travel pass for all exposed current & former personnel plus a spouse / carer.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Non-means-tested respite care for carers of seriously ill survivors or children with disabilities.
- Non-means-tested financial assistance for home & vehicle adaptation for those suffering disability as a result of chemical exposure.
- Non-means-tested financial assistance or other provision for those unable to maintain their own homes such as building & garden maintenance assistance.
- 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.
- 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.
- A reimbursement of vouched medical expenses to date for survivors who have paid their own, their spouses or their children’s related medical expenses.
- 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.