Military accused of Air Corps cover-up on safety

The military has been accused of a “cover-up” in relation to how it dealt with reports of exposure to dangerous substances within the Air Corps.

The Government has also been accused of “major inconsistencies” in its account of how ministers managed the whistleblowers warnings of health and safety issues in the Air Corps.

It comes after the Irish Examiner revealed details of a damning health-and-safety report on working conditions at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

Speaking in the Dáil, Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh alleged that military authorities at Casement Aerodrome “did not take the required steps” when it was highlighted to them that dangerous chemicals existed.

Questioning the Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe on when he first became aware of the health and safety concerns, Mr Ó Snodaigh said that it appeared that “there is a cover-up here”.

“I have 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 and which a number of deputies in this house have been raising with you.

“So this is not a new issue, 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,” Mr Ó Snodaigh claimed.

Casement Aerodrome

Citing investigations published by the Irish Examiner, Fianna Fáil’s Lisa Chambers said “quite a horror story” had been revealed in the Air Corps.

“It’s very clear that major inconsistencies that have emerged in the Government’s account in how it managed the warning received in relation to concerns over Air Corps technicians health.”

Ms Chambers pointed to details of texts between chief whip Regina Doherty and a whistle-blower who warned the Government of exposure.

Ms Chambers said Ms Doherty undertook to contact the then Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney, after this and in January 2015 she told the whistleblower that Mr Coveney would make contact the following day.

However, Mr Coveney claimed he was unaware of this.

Ms Chambers said the chief whip and the then Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney seem to be at “loggerheads” as to who said what and when.

“Mr Coveney says he unaware that the whistleblowers wanted to meet with him personally the chief whip says otherwise”.

She added: “We are already seen a lot of turmoil about the treatment of other whistleblowers in another arm of the State, have we learned nothing, Minister?” she asked.

Mr Kehoe said he would wait for the full independent review as it would be “totally incorrect of me to jump to any conclusions”.

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