Call for Commission of Investigation into Air Corps claims

The Government is facing calls to establish a Commission of Investigation into whistleblower claims against the Air Corps, after the terms of an independent report into the allegations were branded ‘farcical’ by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Call for Commission of Investigation into Air Corps claims

The Air Corps stands accused of failing to protect its technicians from the effects of cancer-causing chemicals, with whistleblowers claiming that decades of neglect has had a devastating effect on the health of members of the Defence Forces.

Yesterday, the Irish Examiner revealed that Christopher O’Toole, the author of an independent review of the allegations, said the terms of reference he was given for this probe were “impractical”, and that elements of the allegations made were issues outside his expertise.

Mr O’Toole also found that records demonstrating the Air Corps’ compliance with health and safety regulations “are not readily available”.

Whistleblowers had previously alleged that inspection records dating back to the 1990s were deliberately destroyed because they had raised concerns, but both the Government and the Defence Forces deny the claim, and say the reports in question were mislaid over time.

Mr Martin said he believes a Commission of Investigation is necessary: “The situation is far from satisfactory because with his opening comments the report’s author is essentially saying he cannot fulfill the terms of reference. From the Government’s point of view they established this review, they must have known the terms of reference could not be fulfilled. It’s farcical.”

“It seems to me there are no records of compliance with health regulations, which is very, very serious because in their absence one has to conclude that the probability is they were not complied with.

“The Government needs to establish a forensic examination into this. I don’t think it is acceptable to wait for court cases against the State to conclude as there is no guarantee these legal proceedings will establish what happened in the past,” he added.

“In the meantime, the Government needs to initiate a health assessment, similar to what was introduced by the Australian government for its Air Force, a baseline study of the personnel who worked in Baldonnel.”

Sinn Féin defence spokesman, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said despite its limitations, Mr O’Toole’s report shows why further investigation is required: “Despite being tasked with a virtually impractical exercise, Mr O’Toole’s report highlights why a more comprehensive investigation is needed into Casement Aerodrome.

He agrees with one of the specific complaints that there was no ongoing assessment of the health of staff working with chemicals and the report also acknowledges a lack of records detailing the level of compliance. It does not however, exam allegations made in the protective disclosures, that records which would have shed light on what was going on at Casement Aerodrome were deliberately destroyed.”

The Department of Defence said the military authorities have made “considerable progress” towards implementing a safety management system for the control of hazardous substances.

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