No probe of Air Corps chemical exposure

The Government says it has no plans to establish a review to determine if the chronic illnesses suffered by former Air Corps staff were as a result of exposure to chemicals while working at Casement Aerodrome.

This is despite similar studies and investigations in Australia and the Netherlands.

The State is currently facing six legal actions from former Air Corps staff, who claim their chronic illnesses were caused by their working conditions at the military airfield in south-west Dublin.

Meanwhile, an official has been appointed to investigate claims by three whistleblowers, who made a number of allegations around the current health and safety measures within the Air Corps.

Last October, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) issued a report calling on the Air Corps to implement a number of improvements on the management of staff exposure to hazardous chemicals.

However, responding to a question from Sinn Féin defence spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh, junior defence minister Paul Kehoe said the Government did not intend to commission any specific study to investigate whether working conditions at Casement Aerodrome had an adv- erse effect on workers’ health.

“There are a number of processes already in train relating to reviewing health-and-safety procedures in the Air Corps,” said Mr Kehoe of the review of the whistleblowers’ claims and the Defence Forces’ response to the HSA report.

“In the circumstances and pending the completion of the ongoing processes, I have no plans to commission another review on this matter.”

Referring to the compensation scheme established for Australian air force staff, Mr Kehoe said that military authorities have advised him “there are a number of published reports and ongoing studies in relation to Australian personnel who were exposed to chemicals while conducting a particular maintenance task on a specific aircraft programme”.

He said: “As such, the military authorities have advised that it would be difficult to draw a direct comparison between the Irish Air Corps and that of the Australian Air Force.”

While the Australian Government initially established a compensation fund for staff who worked on the F-111 bomber planes, it was last year reported that Australian air force chief Marshal Mark Binskin said it should consider widening the scheme to “all fuel-exposed workers, not just former F-111 deseal / reseal maintenance personnel”.

Furthermore, the government there has faced calls to broaden the scheme from groups, including the Submarines Association Australia.

In the Netherlands, following complaints, a compensation fund was established for defence forces workshop staff who used chromium-based paints.

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