Simon Coveney and Enda Kenny were warned of Air Corps concerns

Three whistleblowers warned Enda Kenny and then defence minister Simon Coveney about conditions at the Air Corps headquarters almost a year before the health watchdog issued a critical report on the management of hazardous chemicals at Casement Aerodrome.

Simon Coveney and Enda Kenny were warned of Air Corps concerns

It has also emerged that a former senior civil servant was appointed by the Department of Defence last September to review the whistleblowers’ claims, but they have yet to be contacted by this official.

Today, the Irish Examiner can reveal that:

  • In 2015, Mr Coveney was told that workers were not receiving occupational health monitoring as required by law, 11 months before the Health and Safety Authority issued its report recommending such surveillance be put in place;
  • One frustrated whistleblower subsequently contacted the Taoiseach in December 2015 with his complaint raising concerns about a lack of communication from Mr Coveney;
  • Whistleblowers repeatedly contacted the Department of Defence to request updates on the review of their disclosures;
  • The organisation representing members of the Defence Forces separately contacted the Air Corps by letter with similar concerns in 2015, and warned that any health inspection of Baldonnel would produce ‘damning’ findings.

The Irish Examiner yesterday revealed that the State is facing legal action from a number of defence forces staff who claim their illnesses are as a direct result of their exposure to chemicals while working at Casement.

It also emerged that the Health and Safety Authority last October threatened the Air Corps with prosecution unless it implemented a number of recommendations, including the provision of appropriate equipment to staff handling chemicals and the surveillance of staff health to monitor any adverse effects they experienced as a result of their day-to-day duties.

The Defence Forces said that it cannot comment on protected disclosures, which are a matter for the Department of Defence, and that it would be inappropriate to comment on other queries submitted by this newspaper as there is litigation ongoing.

The department said that, in order to protect the identity of whistleblowers, it was not in a position to discuss the matter of protected communications but confirmed the minister received “a number of disclosures, made under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014”.

A series of questions were put to Mr Coveney regarding the protective disclosure and the concerns raised by the whistleblowers, however no reply was given.

A series of questions were also sent to Mr Kenny, but again no reply was given.

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