The Department of Defence said it cannot locate copies of technical reports from the 1990s which raise concerns about health and safety conditions at the Air Corps headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.
It comes after opposition TDs made claims of a “cover-up” and suggested the files may have been destroyed.
The Irish Examiner, in January last, revealed the State is being sued by six former Air Corps staff who claim their chronic illnesses were caused by exposure to toxic chemicals while working at Casement Aerodrome.
We also reported how, last October, the Health and Safety Authority issued a warning to the Air Corps over its management of staff exposure and wellbeing, following protected disclosures from three whistleblowers.
Sinn Féin defence spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh told the Dáil, in February, he had “seen health and safety reports going back as far as 1995, all of which pointed specifically to the issues that were addressed in the Examiner newspaper”.
“So this is not a new issue,” he stated at the time.
“This is a cover-up because the military authorities in Casement Aerodrome did not take the required steps; when it was highlighted to them that dangerous chemicals existed, they didn’t take those steps.”
The documents in question were also examined by Fianna Fáil defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers who wrote to Taoiseach Enda Kenny about the issue.
“It appears that health and safety concerns were known at the base for some time and there was a failure to act which may have unnecessarily and negatively impacted on the health of those working and serving at the base,” she advised.
She said the reports dating from 1995 and 1997 “appear to identify risks in the workplace around air quality and health and safety at work” and made “a number of recommendations were made surrounding use of and training around hazardous chemicals and use of respirators”.
The Irish Examiner understands the reports, dating to the 1990s, had followed inspections overseen by former state industry agency Forbairt.
Forbairt was dissolved in 1998, with its functions assumed by Enterprise Ireland.
A Freedom of Information request to Enterprise Ireland revealed that the physical records the agency held relating to Forbairt and the Department of Defence have since been destroyed.
No digital copies of the records were retained. However, prior to destroying the physical copies of the technical reports, Enterprise Ireland made photocopies and sent them to the Department of Defence.
A list of the records sent from Enterprise Ireland to the Department of Defence points to a number of entries relating to reports on the Air Corps headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.
However, the department refused a Freedom of Information request from this newspaper for the release of the files, saying it “cannot locate the records requested”.
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