TDs and senators are to visit the Air Corps headquarters, amid fears for the health and safety of staff at Casement Aerodrome.

The move follows revelations in the Irish Examiner about conditions for technicians working on aircraft at the base.

Last year, it emerged that whistleblowers had warned the Department of Defence that the Air Corps’ health and safety measures were inadequate for protecting staff from the harmful chemicals used to service airplanes, including cancer-causing solvents.

The Air Corps has now invited members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence, to see the changes it has implemented over the past year, following warnings from the State’s health watchdog.

Junior defence minister Paul Kehoe revealed details of the visit to the Committee.

“Under my instructions, the General Officer Commanding, GOC, Irish Air Corps, Brigadier General Seán Clancy, has invited the committee to visit the Air corps base and I ask that the chairman and the committee secretariat arrange that visit through my office,” he said.

I would encourage committee members to visit the Air Corps to see the improvements that have been made, in terms of health and safety.

The committee proposes to make the visit on March 27.

Aside from making protected disclosures to the Department of Defence, the Air Corps whistleblowers also tipped off the Health and Safety Authority, who inspected Casement Aerodrome a number of times in 2016. The HSA issued a dozen recommendations to the Air Corps, and warned that it would take legal action, unless changes were implemented

It warned that the Air Corps needed to provide protective gloves, eye protection, and respirators to prevent chemical exposure. It said that employees’ exposure to hazardous substances needed to be monitored, and that protective measures had to be instated.

The shortcomings addressed in the HSA report echoed the whistleblowers’ complaints.

Meanwhile, the State is denying it is liable in seven High Court cases taken by former Air Corps staff, who say they now suffer chronic illnesses, including cancer, as a result of their working conditions, over decades, at Casement Aerodrome.

It is not clear whether the committee will meet with whistleblowers, or if it will discuss allegations, made through protected disclosures, with the Air Corps hierarchy.

A protected disclosure sent to the then-Minister of Defence, Simon Coveney, in December, 2015, warned that a named senior member of the Air Corps destroyed reports, dating back to the 1990s, which raised concerns about the levels of toxic chemicals in workshops in Casement Aerodrome.

Mr Kehoe has said he has no plans to investigate their disappearance.

More on this topic

Air Corps pilot shortage limits emergency helicopter useAir Corps pilot shortage limits emergency helicopter use

Abnormal number of people in Air Corps 'die prematurely', PAC hearsAbnormal number of people in Air Corps 'die prematurely', PAC hears

Tributes paid to four helicopter heroes on the 20th anniversary of their deathsTributes paid to four helicopter heroes on the 20th anniversary of their deaths

Whistleblower feels ‘left out on a limb’ by ministerWhistleblower feels ‘left out on a limb’ by minister


Lifestyle

A decade on from their split, Nicole Scherzinger, Ashley Roberts, Kimberly Wyatt, Carmit Bachar and Jessica Sutta are back together for a tour of the UK and Ireland in April next year.The Pussycat Dolls: Using the second of their nine lives

Ellie O’Byrne paid a visit to the Kabin in Knocknaheeny to see the supportive atmosphere that gave rise to the duo behind the ‘Yeah Boy’ hit.You’d need to have had your head buried in the sand not to have come across MC Tiny and MC The King

Aoife Buckley, one of the recipients of this year's Gaisce Gold award: It's ok to be different.School Daze with Aoife Buckley: I started working towards the Gaisce Awards in third year

Festive seasons come and go, but some moments can never be forgotten, discovers Donal O’Keeffe.Stories of Christmas past and present

More From The Irish Examiner