Air Corps report a ‘horror story’

An Irish Examiner investigation into working conditions in the Air Corps has revealed a “horror story”, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil yesterday.

Mr Martin made the comment as he called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to publish the Department of Defence’s procedures for handling protected disclosures following further revelations in this newspaper.

Yesterday, this newspaper reported the detail of text messages between chief whip Regina Doherty and a whistleblower who had warned the Government of Air Corps staff exposures to cancer-causing chemicals while working at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, Co Dublin.

The whistleblower had contacted Ms Doherty to seek her help in receiving confirmation from then- Defence Minister Simon Coveney that he had read the protected disclosure submitted in late 2015.

In January 2015 Ms Doherty passed a message on to the whistleblower indicating that Mr Coveney would call him the next day.

None of the three whistleblowers have been contacted by Mr Coveney or junior defence minister Paul Kehoe since they made their disclosures more than a year ago.

However, speaking last week prior to the revelation of the text messages between Ms Doherty and the whistle- blower, Mr Coveney said he was not aware of any problems in receiving contact from whistleblowers, claiming that he was an “accessible minister”.

Reacting to the report on the text messages, Mr Martin told the Dáil the series of articles in the Irish Examiner “reveals a horror story of what is going on, and what went on, and demands at least a proper transparent response from government”.

“Under the [Protected Disclosures] Act, proper procedures are meant to be in place in the Department of Defence to react to protected disclosures,” said Mr Martin.

“Could the Taoiseach publish the procedures of the Department of Defence or could he give me a copy of them? Will he confirm that such procedures are involved?” he asked.

In his response, Mr Kenny outlined the details of a Health and Safety Authority report, which were previously reported in this newspaper.

“That is not what I am talking about,” Mr Martin said amid heated exchanges.

“I simply asked the Taoiseach why the Government chief whip and the former minister for defence are silent on the issue of the lack of response to a whistleblower to confirm to him that his protected disclosure has been received by the minister,” he said.

Mr Kenny said he would provide Mr Martin with a copy of the procedures.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said she was shocked by yesterday’s reports and called on Mr Coveney to clarify his position on his knowledge of whistleblowers’ claims to contact him.

Ms Chambers’ request for the matter to be further raised in the Dáil yesterday under topical issues was unsuccessful, but she said she would be seeking to put the matter to Mr Kehoe at the next opportunity.

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