A whistleblower claims the Junior Minister for Defence “doesn’t give a damn” about the health and well-being of Air Corps personnel, two years on from the issuing of a report into his disclosures.
Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe this week confirmed that it was in June 2017 when he first received a report of an independent reviewer who investigated allegations into claims that Air Corps technicians were unduly exposed to dangerous chemicals while working at Casement Aerodrome.
Details of the disclosures were first made public in the Irish Examiner. Nine former Air Corps personnel are suing the State, claiming that their chronic illnesses, including cancer, were caused as a direct result of their exposure to chemicals.
The whistleblower has expressed his frustration at the delay in responding to his complaints and claims that 22 men have died since concerns were first raised in 2015. He believes these deaths can be linked to the men's exposures to chemicals.
“Some of these men could have been saved but Minister Kehoe chose to do nothing,” the whistleblower said.
“Minister Kehoe is constantly at pains to point out how safety, health and well-being of Air Corps personnel are of primary concern but his lack of action shows he doesn't give a damn. Furthermore he has never said he has any concern for the health and wellbeing of former Air Corps personnel which is telling,” he said.
In November and December 2015 and January 2016 three whistleblowers made protected disclosures airing their concerns about a lack of training and protection from the chemicals used in Baldonnel.
This prompted an independent investigation and a separate probe by the Health and Safety Authority which subsequently threatened legal action against the Defence Forces unless it made several changes to its safety regime.
The HSA found safety management of chemical hazards were “significantly less developed than would be expected for an organisation of the size and resources of the Air Corps”, according to its findings.
Furthermore, the independent report found that documentation that proves the Air Corps met its health and safety requirements was “not readily available”.
Despite this report being issued to Mr Kehoe in June 2017, no further action has been taken other than to issue the document to the whistleblowers and the Defence Forces for their feedback.
“The matter of the disclosures is receiving consideration in the context of the responses I received from the parties and legal advice in the context of ongoing active litigation,” Mr Kehoe said this week.