PDForra waiting for reply on Air Corps toxins exposure fears

Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, Dublin.

The organisation representing members of the Defence Forces is still waiting for a reply after raising concerns about the exposure of members of the Air Corps to cancer- causing toxins.

PDForra wrote to both the Defence Forces and Department of Defence six months ago — prior to the publication of a damning Health and Safety Authority report on working conditions in Baldonnel — the details of which were revealed in an Irish Examiner investigation.

Ger Guinan, deputy general secretary of PDForra, said he became “acutely aware” of chemical exposure concerns having met with Dutch counterparts at a European Organisation of Military Associations (Euromil) conference last year.

Last August, Mr Guinan wrote to the Defence Forces requesting information on the use of paints containing Chromium 6, any lubricants or cleaners containing Benzene, and the details of the safety advice given to those handling these chemicals.

The following October, Mr Guinan wrote to the Department of Defence to complain that no risk assessments were carried out within the Air Corps for the use of hazardous chemicals.

Despite asking that the department respond as a matter of urgency “given the gravity of the issue”, it has yet to receive the information requested from either the department or the Defence Forces.

Meanwhile, Housing Minister Simon Coveney has insisted he is not aware of attempts by Air Corps whistleblowers to contact him about their concerns while he was Minister for Defence.

Mr Coveney insisted there is no campaign to block anyone from raising matters of concern, adding that he is “a pretty accessible minister”.

He said: “I am not aware of any whistleblower trying to meet with me. I have certainly have not got that message.

“When I was Minister for Defence the issues in the Air Corps were raised with me and we put in place a process of investigating those and that is what happened”.

“I am not the minister for defence now and Paul Kehoe is the minister and wants to deal with it comprehensively,” he added.

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