Opposition parties to raise air corps claims in the Dáil

Opposition parties are to raise whistleblowers’ concerns on the management of air corps staff exposure to hazardous chemicals in the Dáil today.

Opposition parties to raise air corps claims in the Dáil

This week, the Irish Examiner revealed that three whistleblowers made protected disclosures to then-Defence Minister Simon Coveney in 2015 in which they alleged that the air corps is failing to adequately train and protect its technicians from the effects of the chemicals they use on a daily basis.

These disclosures came a year before an October 2016 report in which the Health and Safety Authority threatened the Air Corps with prosecution unless it acted on over a dozen recommendations arising from inspections of Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel.

Despite making their disclosures over a year ago, none of the whistleblowers have been contacted by the official appointed to review their claims.

Both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have requested that the matter be raised in the Dáil under topical issues, with the subject expected to be discussed today, while the Labour Party said it would table questions to Mr Coveney.

Fianna Fáil defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said she was concerned that these issues were raised in 2015 but may be still outstanding, and said they need to be addressed immediately.

Her bid for the matter to be raised as a topical issue was unsuccessful yesterday, but it is expected to receive debate time today.

Her Sinn Féin counterpart, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, said he, too, would raise the issue in the Dáil.

“The abject failure of the then Defence Minister Simon Coveney and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to act on claims by whistleblowers that health and safety measures at Baldonnel were less than adequate is very worrying,” he said.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin described the reports in the Irish Examiner as “extraordinary.”

“That we have now entered 2017 without the whistleblowers hearing anything further in relation to their disclosures is completely unacceptable,” he said.

Labour’s defence spokesman, Brendan Ryan, said he would be “appalled” if, as the whistleblowers claimed, the air corps failed to issue personal protective equipment to staff.

“I cannot understand how a matter as basic as precautions for use of hazardous chemicals would require a protected disclosure to resolve,” he said. “If air corps staff have been wrongfully exposed to risk from harmful and toxic chemicals then screening must be carried out urgently.”

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