No plan to probe missing health and safety reports

Casement Aerodrome.
Casement Aerodrome.

The Government says the Defence Forces have no intention of investigating how health and safety reports at the centre of an alleged ‘cover up’ within the Air Corps have gone missing.

The State is facing at least six lawsuits from former Air Corps technicians who suffer chronic illnesses that they say were caused by their working environment at Casement Aerodrome.

All six have seen a toxico-pathologist who has given his medical opinion that their illnesses — including cancer, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and memory loss — were caused by their exposure to harmful chemicals.

Last week the Irish Examiner revealed that health and safety reports arising from inspections of Casement Aerodrome in the 1990s — a period during which the six worked for the Air Corps —cannot be found by military authorities.

Sinn Féin defence spokesperson, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, has told the Dáil that he has seen the reports in question, and that they are critical of health and safety management at Casement Aerodrome at the time.

Mr Ó Snodaigh has questioned whether the disappearance of the documents is part of a cover-up to disguise the fact that the Defence Forces did not follow up on the inspections recommendations.

However, despite confirming that the inspections in question took place, and that the reports arising from these probes cannot be located, Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe has said there are no plans to look into how or why the documents went missing.

“As I indicated to the deputy in my letter of 17 May, 2017, an extensive search was undertaken by the military authorities to locate the two reports compiled by Forbairt in 1995 and 1997,” Mr Kehoe told Mr Ó Snodaigh in a reply to his parliamentary question on the matter.

“The military authorities also consulted with Enterprise Ireland (which superseded Forbairt). However, it has not been possible to locate the reports. I am advised by the military authorities that there are no plans to carry out an investigation into why these reports cannot be located.”

The documents were subject to Freedom of Information requests from the Irish Examiner, which were submitted to both Enterprise Ireland and Department of Defence.

Enterprise Ireland told this newspaper that it destroyed all Forbairt records it had held prior to a certain date.

However, it said that before doing so, it made a copy of all documents and sent them to the relevant departments.

Enterprise Ireland provided the Irish Examiner with a list of documents it copied and sent to the Department of Defence. Five of the 35-strong list of documents refer to Casement Aerodrome.

This newspaper subsequently supplied this information to the department, which was unable to locate these records.

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