Protestors encourage voters not to give Paul Kehoe any preference votes

Protestors encourage voters not to give Paul Kehoe any preference votes

- with reporting from Sean O'Riordan

Minister with Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe is being targeted by former members of the Defence Forces who are trying to encourage voters in the forthcoming General Election not to vote for him.

The former Fine Gael chief whip has been a Fine Gael TD for County Wexford since he was first elected to the Dáil in May 2002 and a Minister of State for Defence since 2016.

In the last election, he secured a seat in the Dáil by beating his nearest rival Sinn Féin’s Johnny Mythen by just 52 votes.

Protestors are targeting his constituency offices and those of his party colleagues Michael D’Arcy.

They want to encourage people not to give Deputy Kehoe any preference votes, which helped get him elected the last time round.

The protesters are former members of the Air Corps who belong to the Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors (ACCAS) who claim they suffer illnesses due to their exposure to toxic chemicals while working for the Air Corps.

According to the group, Minister Kehoe has done little or nothing to help them get the medical support and health screening services they want.

Last July, the Oireachtas’ Public Account Committee heard the Air Corps “seems to be” a place where “an abnormal number of people die prematurely”.

At the time, the State Claims Agency had eight cases being taken against the State regarding chemical exposure at the Air Corps by former technicians.

Independent experts have said the chronic illnesses they suffer from were caused by exposure to the chemicals used in servicing aircraft.

A number of whistleblowers have made protected disclosures alleging health and safety failings at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel.

Protestors encourage voters not to give Paul Kehoe any preference votes

Their claims were later supported by the findings of an inspection by the Health and Safety Authority.

Meanwhile, the Defence Forces officers' representative association has also criticised the government over its plans for defence forces accommodation blocks.

While Minister Kehoe announced a €145m plan to upgrade accommodation over the next five years, critics say some of the packages contained previously announced projects.

"It also strikes us that, much of what is detailed here (in the minister's plans) is merely routine maintenance, or refurbishment of very old and run-down buildings," RACO deputy general secretary Lieutenant Colonel Derek Priestly said.

Data courtesy of The Irish Times

However, he did say the refurbishment plans had their timeline for completion cut by Minister Kehoe from 10 years to five years, "which was welcome".

Lt Col Priestly said the big omission on the programmes relates to the continued policy of discontinuing married quarters for all ranks.

A spokesperson for Minister Kehoe said: “Minister Kehoe is focussed 100% on this election campaign and talking to people right across County Wexford about the issues that affect them and their families.”

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