Defence Forces whistle-blowers who raised concerns about Air Corps staff exposure to carcinogenic chemicals are to receive the review of their disclosures this week.
Last January, the Irish Examiner revealed how whistleblowers raised the health and safety issues with Cabinet members, and that the protected disclosures came years after six former Air Corps staff had brought legal action against the State, over the chronic illnesses they suffer.
The six claim their illnesses, including cancer and neurological issues, are as a result of their working environment. Four separate whistleblowers have made disclosures relating to current health and safety issues at Air Corps headquarters at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, Co Dublin.
Despite the first protected disclosure coming in December 2015, a third party was not appointed to review the whistleblowers’ claims until September of last year.
A month later, the health and safety watchdog published the findings of its own investigations into conditions at Casement Aerodrome. The Health and Safety Authority threatened the Air Corps with legal action, unless it addressed concerns it raised following a series of inspections — a number of issues that mirrored the warnings of the whistleblowers.
While the Department of Defence has informed whistleblowers that they will be issued with copies of the review this week, the scope of the probe has been criticised.
Last April, a whistleblower made a disclosure to a number of TDs, in which it was claimed that the former civil servant appointed to head up the review had told him “he was not given the required powers to investigate the remit given to him by [junior defence] minister Paul Kehoe”.
“He told me he had no powers to compel witnesses, nor had he powers to make any findings,” said the whistleblower.
The April disclosure also alleged that health-and-safety reports from the 1990s were destroyed by a named Defence Forces official.
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