Sinn Féin‘ TD: Meet Air Corp health claims with candour’

Seriously ill former members of the Air Corps are facing potentially “catastrophic” consequences for their health as a result of the State’s efforts to fight them ‘tooth and nail’ over the release of information that could aid their treatment, the Dáil heard yesterday.

Sinn Féin defence spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh yesterday said the CervicalCheck scandal has demonstrated a need for the State to disclose the medically sensitive information it has to affected members of the public — including the former Air Corps staff.

Mr Ó Snodaigh asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if the Government would release a report on working conditions in the Air Corps headquarters in Casement Aerodrome that it has withheld.

The Irish Examiner has previously revealed that seven former Air Corps staff are suing the State, having received the opinion of a toxico-pathologist who says the chronic illnesses that they are suffering, such as cancers and brain disorders, are a result of their exposures to chemicals they used while working at Casement Aerodrome.

A document, the Chemical Exposure Report 1994-2005, was prepared off the back of the legal claims, and while the Government has been advised not to publish its findings in the interest of legal privilege, it has been told it has the power to release the report at its discretion.

Mr Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach, in his capacity as Minister for Defence, if he would publish the report “in view of his recent call for candour and transparency in cases regarding the health of persons”.

“Given the current controversy around the checks for cervical cancer, there is a need for transparency in publishing reports that will help people suffering health consequences so they can manage future health needs,” said Mr Ó Snodaigh.

He said those affected need to know what they were exposed to in order to get adequate treatment.

Mr Ó Snodaigh also highlighted one case in which the State Claims Agency is “fighting tooth and nail” against a High Court discovery order demanding the release of a list of chemicals used in the Air Corps hangars. “This is potentially catastrophic for some of those making claims and also for some who are not making claims,” said Mr Ó Snodaigh.

“That list alone could save lives. Given the current debacle with cervical smear tests, I ask the minister of state to think again about the withholding of information that can affect people’s lives and future health,” he said.

Responding to the request, Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe said it would not be appropriate to release the report. “The deputy is trying to link two very distinct and different matters in cervical cancer and the issue we are discussing now,” he said.

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