State paid out more than €10m to settle claims against Defence Forces

The State has paid out more than €10m in legal settlements of claims against the Defence Forces in the last four years but faces paying many times that amount in the coming years.

The Department of Defence has admitted that there are a total of 482 current and “open” cases against the Defence Forces. These include personal injury claims and judicial reviews.

It paid out some €10,698,855 in respect of cases taken by current or former members of the Defence Forces from 2020 to 2023.

A spokesperson said this figure represents “the total value of settlements recorded arising from litigation”.

“Any case taken against the Defence Forces, for whatever reason, must be taken against the Minister for Defence because the Defence Forces cannot act as defendants or respondents in cases of litigation.

“The Department of Defence is therefore responsible for the management of all such litigation cases, including those taken by current or former members of the Defence Forces. This litigation includes personal injuries claims.”

Defence Forces Justice Alliance spokesperson Alan Nolan said that in many cases, personnel are forced down the route of litigation.

“This is because the internal reporting and complaints channels are so unfit for purpose, personnel often use litigation as a last resort to seek justice.

The saddest thing is that even when a case might be won or lost, nothing really changes because the State might have to pay, but they don’t have to be held accountable by anybody.”

The Department has also confirmed that anybody suing the Defence Forces will still be able to give evidence in the forthcoming tribunal.

The tribunal is being established to see if the army’s complaints system is fit for purpose. The decision to hold the inquiry followed the publication of a review into allegations of brutal and “sadistic” abuse — including the rape of both male and female soldiers.

A Women of Honour spokesperson said:

“The level of payouts is a small indicator of the wrongs being perpetrated in the Defence Forces. This is a further reason why a full statutory tribunal of inquiry is required to examine what really is going on inside the Defence Forces. Sadly the Forces have become a centre of abuse of all forms and before it can be fully reformed.”

There had been concern among organisations like the Defence Forces Justice Alliance and the Women of Honour that anybody involved in proceedings would be barred from giving evidence.

The Department spokesperson said:

“Such personnel are not precluded from giving testimony/evidence to the tribunal.”

Ultimately, it will be a matter for the chair of the tribunal to determine the extent of the evidence to be heard, the spokesperson added.

Read full article by Neil Michael on the Irish Examiner website…

https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-41350498.html

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Delay – Deny – Die

Irish Air Corps members allege they were penalised for whistleblowing by loss of retirement ceremony

Failure to invite soldier back for unit presentation is ‘biggest slap in the face’, says airman

Unfortunate “Daft Dave” runs scared after tripping up multiple times…

It has been alleged to the Workplace Relations Commission that around half a dozen Air Corps service members were not afforded a retirement ceremony when they left the service as an act of penalisation for turning whistleblower. The claim was aired after the State failed in a bid to have the press excluded from a whistleblower protection claim against the Department of Defence earlier on Wednesday.

An Air Corps commandant gave evidence that the sort of “unit presentation” complained about would be organised primarily by colleagues and peers, and that there was “no responsibility on anyone” to arrange a retirement party.

Former airman Patrick Gorman claims he was penalised in breach of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 on the grounds that he was not invited back to his former unit to receive a presentation marking his retirement because he made protected disclosures a number of years earlier. His representative, Niall Donohue, told the Workplace Relations Commission on Wednesday that up to six former members of the No 4 Support Wing of the Air Corps, based at Baldonnel Aerodrome, “all got the same treatment” after making protected disclosures, and were prepared to come and testify in support of his claim.

Mr Guidera, appearing instructed by the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, had sought a hearing “in camera” in a motion resisted by the complainant’s representative Mr Donohue.

“This is strictly in the public interest. The facts, if heard, will be greatly appreciated by the public,” Mr Gorman said.

“The biggest slap in the face you could give a soldier who’d served 35 years in the Defence Forces would be to not invite him back for a unit presentation,” Mr Gorman told the tribunal.

Mr Donohue said the alleged denial of a retirement ceremony to the veteran “undermined his reputation in the community of the Defence Forces. Why was this done to him? The answer is it was done to him because he put in his protected disclosure.”

There was legal argument over the interpretation of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 as it applied to a member of the Defence Forces.

Mr Guidera contended Defence Forces personnel only have the status of a “worker” as defined in the legislation – leaving them without the protections afforded to an “employee” in the Act.

Mr Donohue argued that the words “worker” and “employee” in the whistleblower protection law were “interchangeable”.

The adjudicator said he would adjourn the hearing to consider preliminary arguments on the admissibility of the claim, adding that he would decide at that stage whether to call a senior officer as sought by the complainant.

Read full article by Stephen Bourke on the Irish Times website…

https://www.irishtimes.com/crime-law/courts/2024/02/21/air-corps-members-allege-they-were-penalised-for-whistleblowing-by-loss-of-retirement-ceremony/

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Delay – Deny – Die

“I started standing up for myself and the higher ranks came right back at me”

Former army member Alan Nolan voiced his concerns over policy and treatment in the Defence Forces, but instead of being listened to at the time, he was ‘screamed at, shouted at, sworn at’
Alan Nolan, ex-defence forces relaxing at home tying fishing flies. He spoke to reporter Neil Michael. Pic: Larry Cummins

Alan, a former Company Sergeant who left the army in 2017, says his own life was made a misery early on in his career after he tried to have his record cleared of a false report lodged on his military file.

He was reprimanded for being late for work at Collins Barracks in Cork in 1996 the morning after he had spent all night in Cork University Hospital’s emergency department with his young daughter.

Alan disputed the way the matter had been handled and eventually a very senior officer came up with the idea of having the reprimand taken off his military file.

But he later found out it hadn’t been removed and then when he took the matter to the internal Defence Forces Redress of Wrongs process, which is supposed to deal with soldiers’ complaints, he endured “more hell”.

So, by the time he put in a Protected Disclosure in 2017 about deficiencies in the way private medical data is handled in the Defence Forces in addition to other serious wrongdoings, he had given up all hope for any chance of fair treatment in the army.

Painful punishment

However, when he was in the army and working in the Central Medical Unit when the records system was brought in, nobody wanted to talk to him.

He says this attitude was always there, right from the very start of his career.

“I was screamed at, shouted at, sworn at and basically told that I had ‘fucked myself’ and my career by complaining about the way I had been treated in 1996, and on multiple other occasions,” he said.

“They never let me forget it and that culture still exists today.” He fears many other soldiers may also have similar issues in their careers. “You are pulled up out of the blue for no reason. This is especially the case if you dare to stick your head above the army parapet.

“I was always one of those people who believed in and tried to live by Defence Forces values.”

According to the website, these include integrity and the fact that each soldier should be “truthful, reliable and honourable”. Respect is another one, and the fact that each soldier “must treat comrades with dignity, respect, tolerance, and understanding”. Alan said:

I ascribed to all those values but the one I really liked was the Defence Forces’ value for so-called ‘moral courage’. This dictates that you must do what you know is right, not what is easier or popular.

“How wrong I and so many others have been over the years to think about doing what we know to be right when the reality is you will be severely punished for doing just that.

Read full article by Neil Michael on Irish Examiner website…

https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/spotlight/arid-41284891.html

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“It stops now” indeed…

Delay – Deny – Die

Soldier who blew whistle on bullying left to man phone that never rings #IrishAirCorps

Soldier F made protected disclosures about bullying and victimisation in the Defence Forces that led to a Government-initiated inquiry. So why is he stuck doing a barely menial task in an office?
‘When you hear the army saying there is no more victimisation, or they are doing everything they can to stamp it out, all they need to do is pop along to the office with the phone that doesn’t ring.’

In the air corps’ Baldonnel air base, there is a little-used office filled with filing cabinets.

Every day Soldier F, who cannot be named or quoted because he is a serving soldier, comes into the office, takes his jacket off, sits down, and waits for the phone to ring.

However, not only does the phone never ring, but, according to a close friend of his, even if it did, nobody would hear his voice because the phone doesn’t work properly.

He knows this because the few times the phone has rung, he has picked it up and the person at the end of the line keeps asking if anybody is there.

It’s hard to fathom that the Defence Forces would pay an experienced soldier, once tasked with commanding men in Lebanon, to answer a phone that never rings. According to his friend, he believes it is because he has stood up for himself and others who were bullied and victimised in the Defence Forces.

He has lodged a number of protected disclosures about mistreatment, assaults, and victimisation.

It was Soldier F’s evidence that led to a Government-initiated inquiry into the Defence Forces Cadet School.

This inquiry predated the Women of Honour expose by just over a year and was one of a raft of reports pointing to a culture of overt misogyny among Defence Forces officers.

His evidence led Government-appointed barrister Frances Meenan, who headed that inquiry, to remark that Defence Forces policies in relation to employment equality, and bullying at work need “major reconsideration and redrafting”.

This was, said Meenan, because “they are not fit for purpose in the modern era of employment”.

The last engagement Soldier F had with any State-initiated investigation into irregularities in the Defence Forces was the recent Independent Review Group panel probe that was set up after RTÉ’s Women of Honour programme.

While panel members were shocked at much of what Soldier F had to say to them behind closed doors, he is, according to his friend, another one of the many who gave evidence who now feel cold-shouldered by the State.

Read full article by Neil Michael on Irish Examiner website…

https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/spotlight/arid-41280913.html

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This article shows the type of mistreatment that personnel who highlight wrongdoing in the Irish Air Corps are are subjected to. Time after time they are marked out for humiliation & bullying until they leave the service.

The Air Corps can act with impunity in cases like this because, firstly, unlike civilian workplaces, they are exempt from constructive dismissal legislation and secondly, because a succession of Ministers for Defence, including Micheál Martin, Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar & Paul Kehoe have shown that they have been more than happy to look the other way & allow such bullying behaviour to continue unchecked.

“It stops now” indeed…

Delay – Deny – Die

Air Corps whistleblower’s decision to retire “demonstrates a dysfunction in the complaints process”

The Irish Examiner revealed today that the whistle-blower – 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 whistle-blower 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 whistle-blower believes may be connected to chemical exposures at the force’s headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.

She described the revelation that a whistle-blower is to retire early as ‘shocking’.

“I’m very concerned about the treatment of whistle-blowers 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 whistle-blower’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. Whistle-blowers 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.”

Air corps whistleblower was ‘isolated, vilified’

An air corps whistle-blower has written to the Defence Forces Chief of Staff to inform him of his decision to retire early over what he has claimed is the authority’s failure to protect him.

The decision comes two months after the whistle-blower wrote to junior defence minister Paul Kehoe complaining of the “unwarranted treatment” he has received since he submitted a protected disclosure on health-and-safety issues.

In this communication with Mr Kehoe, the whistle blower included signed statements from two air corps personnel, the contents of which, he said, were evidence of an attempt by those in authority to “isolate and vilify” him and turn his colleagues against him.

He is one of three whistle blowers to make complaints about the chemical exposure suffered by air corps maintenance staff, the details of which were first revealed by the Irish Examiner two years ago.

The commanding officer further pointed to previous complaints made against him by the whistle-blower, which he said constitutes “a consistent pattern of vindictive and bullying behaviour” against him.

The commanding officer further pointed to previous complaints made against him by the whistle-blower, which he said constitutes “a consistent pattern of vindictive and bullying behaviour” against him.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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If said commanding officer felt he was targeted by a consistent pattern of vindictive and bullying behaviour by a subordinate the Defence Forces have measures in place to deal with such behaviour through military law.

If the commanding officer didn’t act to use existing disciplinary mechanisms against his subordinate why did he introduce such complaints when he himself was being investigated? 

Delay – Deny – Die

Department of Defence coy on probe of bullying claims

An air corps whistleblower has been told that it is “difficult to envisage” how the Department of Defence would investigate complaints of bullying made in a protected disclosure about chemical exposure within the force.

The protected disclosure, seen by the Irish Examiner, contains allegations that the whistle-blower was doused in chemicals used to service aircraft as an initiation, and was frequently exposed to chemicals without protective equipment as he carried out his duties in the Engine Shop at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

He alleges that he became ill while still serving in the air corps, but was targeted by superiors for his frequent absences due to sickness.

His complaints match those of a number of other whistleblowers, and the State is currently facing at least seven separate legal actions from former air corps staff who claim they are chronically ill due to their exposure to chemicals at Casement Aerodrome.

A Government-commissioned report by former civil servant Christopher O’Toole into earlier whistleblower disclosures found there was no documentation available to demonstrate that the air corps met its health and safety obligations.

The latest whistleblower called on the Government to launch a fresh review into the complaints about conditions in Casement Aerodrome, and asked that his allegations of bullying be considered as part of this probe.

“My allegations need to be investigated in full as part of a wider investigation into the air corps chemical exposure scandal and the subsequent bullying and mistreatment of personnel injured by the same chemical exposure,” states the whistle blower.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 04/05/17 – Irish Army Air Corps – WRC Settlement

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the Air Corps made a settlement in the Workplace Relations Commission on 19 April 2017 as compensation for the bullying and mistreatment of an Air Corps health and safety whistle blower that had raised workplace safety concerns; the way the robust anti-bullying controls he previously mentioned appear not to be working in practice within the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20007/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

As the Deputy may be aware, any proceedings before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) are handled confidentially, therefore, I cannot comment in either the positive or negative in any matter which may come within the jurisdiction of the WRC. Indeed, the WRC will not publish details of any individual case or the identity of any applicant. As regards the procedures in place within the Defence Forces to deal with bullying I would like to reiterate that it is Defence Forces policy that all personnel have a right to be treated with respect, equality and dignity and to carry out their duties free from any form of bullying, harassment or sexual harassment. While military life entails robust and effective military training, such training must, however, take place in a professional service environment that fully respects individual human dignity. Bullying and harassment of any kind are wrong and are not tolerated within the Defence Forces. They are entirely unacceptable in themselves and wholly incompatible with a successful and modern organisation.

All known incidents of such behaviour are properly investigated bearing in mind the need for due process which requires fairness to all parties to the complaint. Through the induction process and general notifications, the non-tolerance of unacceptable behaviour is stressed to all members of the Defence Forces. The formal and informal procedures in force are there to encourage any individual who wishes to make a complaint. Procedures for dealing with complaints of Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Harassment are set out in Defence Forces Regulations. Complaints of unacceptable behaviour can be dealt with at different levels, either in an informal approach or formal manner. The overall aim is to ensure that the complaint is dealt with, in the first instance, at the lowest level possible. Informal complaints can be resolved directly by the complainant with the assistance of a third party if required. Such third party can include any member of the Defence Forces who has the trust and confidence of the complainant. Specially trained Designated Contact Persons (DCPs) are also available to assist complainants.

The formal procedure requires that a complaint is made in writing. These are dealt with by the military chain of command either through the legal/disciplinary process or by administrative action.


No disciplinary proceedings have been taken by Irish Army Air Corps management against the perpetrators of the bullying & mistreatment of the Health & Safety whistle-blower because the perpetrators are Irish Army Air Corps Management