The Government is coming under increased pressure to launch an investigation into missing Defence Forces inspection reports which were allegedly destroyed.
The calls for an independent probe follow reports in the Irish Examiner which revealed that junior defence minister Paul Kehoe has ruled out any investigation into the disappearance of health and safety reports from the air corps, despite being told by a whistleblower the documents were deliberately shredded.
The State is being sued by six former air corps members who claim their chronic illnesses were caused by their exposure to toxic chemicals while working as technicians in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnell.
The missing safety reports date back to the 1990s when all six allegedly injured air corps members worked in Baldonnel.
Despite both the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence saying the reports cannot be found, opposition politicians claim to have had sight of the documents and say that they raise concerns as to the management of the working environment in Casement Aerodrome.
Yesterday, this newspaper revealed that, in April, Mr Kehoe received a protected disclosure alleging that a named official ordered the shredding of the documents.
Despite this, Mr Kehoe last week told Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh that he could only offer “speculative” reasons as to why the reports are missing and ruled out an inquiry into their disappearance.
Responding to this newspaper’s report yesterday, Fianna Fáil defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said allegations the reports were deliberately destroyed in order to cover up knowledge of health and safety concerns were “extremely serious”.
“The suggestion from the minister that the reports in question, which are from different inspection periods and from different reporting years, have vanished and that this is somehow due to change over to an electronic system or documents were misplaced over time is difficult to believe,” she said.
“I am surprised at the laissez-faire attitude of the minister to this issue. A number of people have serious concerns around why reports such as these might have been destroyed.
“Given there are a number of cases pending against the state on this very issue, one has to ask the question, has something sinister happened to these reports given that they could well bolster the legal challenges being mounted against the state for health and safety failures?
“Why is the minister not asking the hard questions and why does he not want to know what happened to the reports?
“In the absence of an investigation into how these reports vanished, we will never know, but you can be sure the public will draw their own conclusions as to what happened and why.
“This is not the kind of country we live in, nor want to live in.
“If the state has in some way caused harm to citizens that worked in service to our country and the state, then we should put our hands up and do what is needed to put it right; not attempt to block justice at every corner.”
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