Air Corps report highlights need for full inquiry into dangerous chemicals exposure - Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD
Sinn Féin Defence Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the government must now initiate a comprehensive investigation into health and safety procedures at Casement Aerodrome and that its terms of reference must be broad enough to ensure it is able to examine the serious allegations made by serving and retired members’ of the Defence Forces.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh was responding to the findings of a report compiled by retired civil servant Christopher O’Toole that the narrow remit he was given meant it was "impractical" to adequately investigate or make any definitive findings in response to whistle-blowers claims that their health was seriously compromised as a result of wholly inadequate safety protocols whilst serving with the Air Corps at Baldonnel.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“It comes as little or no surprise that Mr O’Toole’s report lacked the scope to properly investigate the claims that the health and well-being of Defence Forces personnel was being compromised because of poor or non-existent health and safety protocols at Casement Aerodrome.
"Mr O’Toole admits as much in his report, stating that because his expertise was in the law he was "not in a position to consider the substances in use or any implications for human health arising from such use as these issues are outside my competence".
“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.
“It is now time for the Government to act in the best interests of the Defence Forces and carryout a full review of health and safety protocols at Casement Aerodrome over the last three decades, which must be thorough, transparent and with terms of reference that allow for an in-depth examination of how chemicals and other toxic materials were managed.
"It must also include the inclusion of oral testimonies from past and present personnel who served there and an independent assessment of their health and general well-being to ascertain if they have suffered as a result of their service at the base.
“This issue is not going to go away, concluded Deputy Ó Snodaigh, I will be again be raising this matter with the Defence Minister at the earliest opportunity.”