A serving Air Corps whistleblower is facing discharge as a result of a “work-related industrial dispute”.
The man, who has met with and made protected disclosures to minister of state for defence Paul Kehoe, stands accused by military superiors of “chronic ineffectivity” due to anxiety and a “work-related industrial dispute”.
The whistleblower has made disclosures about the working environment within the Air Corps — and has alleged a cover-up within the Defence Forces to hide years of inaction over concerns for workers’ health.
Last July, the Irish Examiner revealed that the man — who made protected disclosures about health and safety management of hazardous chemicals at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel — had been summoned to appear before a Defence Forces medical board in August.
This meeting was adjourned — but the whistleblower was last week informed that the hearing is to be held tomorrow.
His claims were vindicated following a Health and Safety Authority (HSA) inspection of Casement Aerodrome, after which the HSA threatened the Defence Forces with legal action unless it addressed the issues identified during the inspection.
The concerns raised centre on the cancer-causing chemicals used by technicians who clean and service the Air Corps fleet of aircraft.
The HSA warned that the Defence Forces needed to provide protective gloves, eye protection, and respirators to protect staff against chemical exposure, to monitor its workers’ exposure to harmful substances, and to observe their health for the early detection of adverse changes.
The man is one of three whistleblowers to raise concerns which led to an independent review of health and safety management at the Air Corps — a probe which stated it did not have access to records that would show that standards were met in Casement Aerodrome.
The reviewer suggested that pending injury cases against the State by former Air Corps technicians who suffer chronic illnesses may be the best avenue to determine if the Air Corps complied with its safety obligations.
The whistleblower facing dismissal has also alleged that inspections at Casement Aerodrome in the 1990s produced reports raising concerns with the environment at the Air Corps HQ — and that these documents were destroyed.
He has met with Mr Kehoe to outline this allegation in person, while a second whistleblower also made the same claim in a written disclosure — a statement that further named the official alleged to have ordered the reports’ destruction.
Despite this, Mr Kehoe said he would not order any investigation into the reports’ disappearance.
“The authorities have indicated that there are a range of potential causes for the loss of the reports such as the changeover of electronic recording systems in 2004 or that the reports were misplaced over time
,” Mr Kehoe told the Dáil last June.
Meanwhile, the State Claims Agency has refused to release to this newspaper reports arising from a series health and safety audits it conducted at Casement Aerodrome.
Last month, Mr Kehoe told the Dáil that the State Claims Agency “have conducted Health and Safety Management System audits of the Defence Forces since 2006”. Mr Kehoe said the State Claims Agency completed eight such audits between 2006 and 2015.
The State Claims Agency has refused this newspaper’s request for copies of these audits, stating that the documents “concern the performance of the functions of the State Claims Agency which are outside the scope of the FoI Act.”
The Irish Examiner has put queries to Mr Kehoe and the Department of Defence.
This newspaper has asked if Mr Kehoe is aware that these proceedings have re-commenced, if he is concerned that there are efforts underway to discharge a whistleblower for a “work-related industrial dispute”, and if he plans to intervene in this matter.
While receipt of these questions was acknowledged, no reply was received at time of going to press.
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