Air Corps whistleblowers were not asked for more information, minister says

The Department of Defence has not sought any further information from whistleblowers, on allegations that key Defence Forces documents were destroyed, a junior Minister has confirmed.

Air Corps whistleblowers were not asked for more information, minister says

The documents are health-and-safety reports that allegedly reveal the Air Corps was warned about the air quality in Casement Aerodrome as far back as the 1990s.

The State is defending seven High Court claims from former Air Corps staff, who say their chronic illnesses were caused by undue exposure to chemicals in Casement Aerodrome.

In a document seen by the Irish Examiner, the State has denied liability in at least one case and said “if the plaintiff suffered any personal injury, loss or damage, it was not caused by any act or omission on its part, or was not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of any such act or omission”.

Earlier this month, the Irish Examiner revealed that, in a protected disclosure, a whistleblower warned the Department in December, 2015 that a named official “willfully destroyed evidence throughout the years”, but “wasn’t aware... that copies were made of certain files that showed dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in various workshops, as early as 1995 and 1997”.

The Department did not search for these reports, compiled by Enterprise Ireland’s predecessor, Forbairt, until more than a year later, when Sinn Féin defence spokesman, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, raised the issue in the Dáil.

Two more whistleblowers have since supported the allegations, one naming the same official identified in the December 2015 disclosure. Some disclosures to the Government have also been made to opposition politicians.

Following the Irish Examiner report earlier this month, Mr O’Snodaigh submitted a parliamentary question to Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe in which he asked “if his department sought further information from the relevant whistleblower, regarding health and safety reports, which they allege were destroyed as part of a cover-up within the Air Corps; and, if not, the reason therefor”.

“No specific information has been sought from the correspondents, in relation to reports which were the subject of an allegation of destruction contained in correspondence which was also sent to the Deputy,” Mr Kehoe said.

Last year, Mr Kehoe ruled out any investigation into the reports’ disappearance. “The authorities have indicated there are a range of potential causes for the loss of the reports, such as the changeover of electronic recording systems in 2004 or that the reports were misplaced over time,” he told the Dáil.

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