Calls for review of Air Corps

Casement Aerodrome

Cross-party demands have been made for an independent investigation into how the Air Corps has managed staff exposure to harmful chemicals.

It follows a series of Irish Examiner revelations about health and safety issues at the Baldonnel military facility in west Dublin.

TDs from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and Labour called for an examination of the management of health and safety at Casement Aerodrome, and for measures to assist anyone who suffered sickness due to working conditions.

Yesterday, this newspaper revealed the details of an internal 2014 report in which the Air Corps conceded that it could not say it did all it should have to protect technicians from being exposed to the effects of a known cancer-causing solvent.

Despite this, the State is defending a number of cases brought by former Air Corps staff now suffering a variety of illnesses.

The State denies liability for the chronic conditions suffered by former members.

This newspaper, last week, disclosed that reports from inspections of Casement Aerodrome, critical of health and safety measures in the 1990s, have gone missing.

Paul Kehoe, the junior defence minister, later confirmed the matter to Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

“I don’t sense any urgency to investigate what is going on, or even look at the ’95 and ’97 inspections, to find what actions were taken following their findings or where they are,” said Mr Ó Snodaigh.

“At this stage, I am calling for an independent investigation to see what were the conditions in the Air Corps maintenance workshops and find out why these reports were not acted upon instantly.”

Fianna Fáil’s Lisa Chambers described the revelations as “extremely worrying”. “If these exposures and risks were preventable then there is an onus on the State and the Air Corps to explain why this happened,” she said.

Ms Chambers reiterated a call for a health review “of all potential personnel affected by chemical exposure at Baldonnell” and said that “an appropriate healthcare package be put in place for these people”.

“If the State has done wrong in this situation and people are now suffering the negative health effects, then we need to step up and do the right thing,” she said.

Labour TD Sean Sherlock said a cross-party approach is required. “This happened on our watch as well as others,” he said. “We have a moral responsibility to assist any person working in the service of the State who has incurred an illness due to inadequate health and safety procedures.”


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