Twenty [serving & former] Air Corps personnel have died prematurely since a whistleblower asked Leo Varadkar for help more than two years ago, the Dáil has heard.
According to joint Social Democrats leader Róisín Shortall, they are among a total of 85 premature deaths among Air Corps personnel.
Of these, 32 of them were under the age of 50, with “many” in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, she said.
The Dáil has previously heard research by Gavin Tobin, a former technician with the Air Corps, which has raised questions over the deaths.
Personnel like him, the Dáil has heard, were regularly exposed to chemicals while working at the Baldonnel Air Base at a time when they had little or no personal protective equipment.
The Air Corps remains accused of failing to protect its technicians from the effects of cancer-causing chemicals, with whistleblowers like Mr Tobin claiming decades of neglect has had a devastating effect on their health.
In January 2017, Mr Tobin contacted Mr Varadkar about his campaign to highlight issues around alleged exposure to dangerous chemicals and solvents in the Air Corps.
Mr Tobin asked him if he would contact him “in confidence” in relation to health screening for those who were allegedly exposed to chemicals while serving. A few minutes after Mr Tobin sent his text on January 26, 2017, Mr Varadkar replied:
“Hi Gavin, Cabinet Handbook doesn’t allow me to go behind the backs of other ministers or enter into confidence with someone else to exclude them. (I) signed an (sic) contract to observe Collective responsibility and cabinet confidentiality.”
Deputy Shortall told the Dail today:
“(Mr) Varadkar was contacted by an ex-Air Corps member in relation to the issue of premature deaths, which is very serious and needs urgent examination”
19 men and 1 woman have died since the Varadkar was approached for help. Subsequent protected disclosures to Varadkar were either ignored or forwarded to then Junior Minister Paul Kehoe.
Absolutely nothing has been done to provide targeted healthcare for exposed personnel since this date despite damning findings by the HSA which the Department of Defence continue to try to downplay.