UL failed to inform students of Baldonnel chemical fears

The University of Limerick failed to pass on health concerns about the Air Corps hangars to its work placement students, despite several warnings over chemical exposure fears.

Although it was told that students “may have been exposed to toxic chemicals and organic solvents during the course of their work placement”, UL did not follow up on requests to inform the relevant students.

The warnings came over six months before the Health and Safety Authority issued a damning report on the Air Corps’ management of harmful chemicals at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

Documents released to the Irish Examiner under the Freedom of Information Act reveal UL was contacted in April 2016 by solicitors representing six former Air Corps technicians who are taking legal action against the State over the illnesses they suffered after working in Baldonnel.

Patrick V Boland and Son solicitors wrote to the president of UL on April 15, 2016, to claim that many “military personnel and ex-military personnel have been ill for many years and have only recently become aware of the fact that their symptoms are due to their unprotected exposure to these organic solvents”.

The letter added: “We believe that some of the students who were given work placement at Casement Aerodrome Baldonnel may have become ill and are suffering from symptoms the cause of which is unknown to them.”

Almost a month later, UL corporate secretary Callista Bennis wrote to the solicitors to state UL would not engage in further correspondences with them on the matter.

She added: “It is noted that you refer to former students of the University of Limerick who may have been on placement at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, Co Dublin, but that you do not in fact represent these former students.” 

A spokesperson for UL said the university had a cooperative placement where it would send two to three students to the Air Corps annually. The arrangement ran from the 1990s to 2008.

“The university has no record of any correspondence whatsoever from the Air Corps, Department of Defence, Defence Forces, HSA or any other Government body regarding health and safety issues at Baldonnell,” the spokesperson said.

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