Calls for

Cross-party demands have been made for an independent investigation into how the Air Corps has managed staff exposure to harmful chemicals.

Concerns from politicians follow a series of Irish Examiner revelations about health and safety issues at the Baldonnel military facility in west county Dublin.

Opposition TDs from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Fein and Labour called for an examination of the management of health and safety at Casement Aerodrome, and for measures to assist anyone who suffered sickness due to working conditions.

Yesterday, this newspaper revealed the details of an internal 2014 report in which the Air Corps conceded it cannot say it did all, it should, to protect technicians from being exposed to the effects of a known cancer-causing solvent.

Despite this, the State is defending a number of cases brought by former Air Corps staff now suffering a variety of illnesses. In a defence, the State has denied any liability for the chronic conditions suffered by former members.

This newspaper, last week, first disclosed that reports from inspections of Casement Aerodrome, critical of health and safety measures in the 1990s, have gone missing.

Minister of State Paul Kehoe, with responsibility for defence, later confirmed the matter to Sinn Fein's Aengus O’Snodaigh.

“I don’t sense any urgency to investigate what is going on, or even look at the ‘95 and ‘97 inspections, to find what actions were taken following their findings or where they are,” Mr O'Snodaigh said. “At this stage, I am calling for an independent investigation to see what were the conditions in the Air Corps maintenance workshops and find out why these reports were not acted upon instantly.”

Fianna Fail's Lisa Chambers described the revelations in this newspaper as “extremely worrying”. “If these exposures and risks were preventable then there is an onus on the state and the Air Corps to explain why this happened, Ms Chambers said. She reiterated a call for a health review “of all potential personnel affected by chemical exposure at Baldonnell” and said that “an appropriate health care package be put in place for these people”. 

“If the state has done wrong in this situation and people are now suffering the negative health effects, then we need to step up and do the right thing," she said.

Sean Sherlock of the Labour Party said a cross-party approach to the matter was required. “This happened on our watch as well as others,” he said. “We have a moral responsibility to assist any person working in the service of the state who has incurred an illness due to inadequate health and safety procedures.

“These are the people who kept fisheries' patrol planes and government jets, ferrying ministers, in the air. This has to be pursued," he said.

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