No response to latest Air Corps whistleblower claim

The Government has not responded to a new protected disclosure on chemical exposures within the Air Corps.

The disclosure was made by a whistleblower, who says he is chronically ill, due to his experiences at Casement Aerodrome, the Irish Examiner can reveal.

The protected disclosure, seen by this newspaper, was submitted to the Department of Defence last December, but the whistleblower has not been contacted since, bar an acknowledgement that his disclosure was received.

The whistleblower is the latest of a number of former and currently-serving Air Corps staff who have raised health-and-safety issues with the Government since December, 2015.

In the December 2017 disclosure, the former member of staff echoes previous submissions to the Government. He says he was doused in chemicals by other recruits, as an initiation, and was frequently exposed to various chemicals as part of his duties in the engine shop at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

He alleges that he became ill while still serving in the Air Corps, but was bullied and mistreated by superiors for his frequent absences, due to illnesses he believes were caused by his working environment.

The submission came months after this newspaper revealed the details of a report into previous disclosures that was commissioned by the Government.

However, the report’s author conceded that he was not in a position “to consider the substances in use or any implications for human health, arising from such use”, due to his own lack of expertise in the area.

The State is facing legal action from seven former Air Corps members, all of whom claim they are ill as a result of chemical exposures in Casement Aerodrome.

The State is currently appealing a discovery order granted by the High Court to one of the men, who has sought a list of the chemicals that were used in the Air Corps workshops.

The latest disclosure was raised in the Dáil this week, by Sinn Féin defence spokesperson, Aengus O’Snodaigh, who asked Junior Defence Minister, Paul Kehoe, if he had contacted the whistleblower or if there had been communications with the man, “other than to acknowledge receipt of his disclosure”, or if efforts had been made to investigate claims he was bullied.

“This man had major complications and major problems within the Defence Forces and the Air Corps. He was doused with chemicals such as greases, oils, and even aircraft fuel.”

“When he complained to the doctors, he was told to suck it up, to get back into his uniform, and to get on with it, or he was called a malingerer or a bluffer,” Mr O’Snodaigh said.

“The Minister of State has had this disclosure for a long time and there does not seem to be any movement on it,” Mr O’Snodaigh said.

Minister Kehoe said that he was precluded by law from discussing any protected disclosure from any individual.

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