Concerns have been raised about a ‘shocking’ Irish Examiner report that an Air Corps whistleblower is to retire early due to what he claims are attempts to ‘vilify and isolate’ him.
The Irish Examiner revealed today that the whistleblower - one of three who has previously raised concerns about staff's exposure to chemicals - has announced his decision to retire early.
His decision comes two months after telling Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe that he has not received assurances from Defence Forces hierarchy that he is not being targeted for making protected disclosures.
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said a list of deaths compiled by one Air Corps whistleblower requires explanation.
The list, the existence of which was previously reported in this newspaper, contains the details of more than 70 deaths of former Air Corps staff that the whistleblower believes may be connected to chemical exposures at the force’s headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.
Ms Murphy said the causes of deaths and the age profiles of the deceased require explanation and will be a matter she will raise with the State Claim Agency when it appears again before the Public Accounts Committee. Ms Murphy said if the risk has been addressed, then the State Claims Agency should be assessing how many were affected prior to remedying the situation.
She described the revelation that a whistleblower is to retire early as ‘shocking’.
“It is almost like his contributions are seen as vexatious complaints rather than valuable information to be interrogated. If that is why he has decided to retire early then that is understandable. The problem here is in not addressing the issue.
"I’m very concerned about the treatment of whistleblowers and people making disclosures, as some arms of the public service are not dealing with them as comprehensively or fairly as they should,” Ms Murphy said.
Fianna Fáil Defence spokesman, Jack Chambers, said the whistleblower’s decision “demonstrates a dysfunction in the complaints process” and will act as a deterrent to anyone else who is thinking about coming forward.
“This is symptomatic of the general malaise that has been allowed to fester within the Defence Forces under the current Minister. Whistleblowers who feel that their only next option is to retire demonstrates a dysfunction in the complaints process and it certainly doesn’t encourage others who have issues of concern from engaging with the process."
“The Minister needs to take these issues seriously and propose real solutions to problems like these or morale will continue to plummet and the retention and recruitment crisis will continue,” Mr Chambers said.