Cover-up of chemical exposure in Air Corps - Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD
Speaking during questions to the Minister of Defence Paul Keogh in the Dáil this week, Sinn Féin spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD accused military authorities of covering up serious breaches of health and safety at Casement Aerodrome since the 1990s.
The Dublin South Central TD said:
“It has become clear to me that the Military Authorities are involved in a cover-up about the extent of their knowledge of health and safety breaches in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, County Dublin over three decades.
“To date, they claim they only became aware of the problem when the Health and Safety Authority made site inspections in February, April and September 2016.”
Deputy Ó Snodaigh challenged that version and claimed the Minister of State Paul Kehoe was being misled on the length of time they knew about the exposure and their failure to take action.
“It is simply scandalous that the people who were continually exposed to chemicals from the 1990s onwards have been ignored. The reports I have seen were sent 22 years ago, 20 years ago and three years ago. They highlighted the lack of identification for chemicals, the fact that there was cross-contamination of chemicals and no personal protective equipment, and a number of other issues.”
Speaking afterwards Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:
“As far back as 1995, serious health and safety concerns were being reported regarding the way highly toxic and dangerous chemicals were being handled at Casement Aerodrome and the daily exposure of Air Corps personnel to them.
“Thus far there has been a denial by the Military authorities, and the minister has parroted that version, claiming he was unaware of the dangers associated with chemicals and their handling in several workshops in the aerodrome till 2016.
“I have seen three health and safety reports and other material dating as far back as 1995 which show clearly the extent of exposure of young Air Corps personnel to highly dangerous, corrosive and highly cancerous chemicals such as Trichloroethylene without protective clothing equipment or training.
“Some of these young airmen, were as young as 16 and therefore under the State’s care, when they were first exposed to the chemicals that could potentially lead to, and did in some cases, severe diarrhoea up to 20 times per day, suicidal tendencies, anxiety, headaches, DNA alterations, discolouration and cancers and other as severe medical conditions. In many ways they had the same type of exposure as a daily chemical attack.
“The concerns of personnel were routinely dismissed when they were raised with the Air Corps doctor in the 1990s till recently, and now the Air Corps authorities seem intent on trying to cover-up their failings and the results of the failure which is as I was told by one of the victims akin to ‘being exposed to a chemical war attack daily’.”