Dáil Éireann Written Answers 18/10/17 – Defences Forces – Protected Disclosures

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)


To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on a person’s (details supplied) contention contained within their report on health and safety procedures at Casement Aerodrome that they lacked the powers, experience and competence to investigate the allegations made by the whistleblowers; the reason the scope of a review was so limited despite assurances made by him in Dáil Éireann that the review would adequately deal with the allegations made in the protective disclosures received by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44025/17]

Clare Daly (Dublin Fingal, Independent)


To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to commission a second review of claims by former Air Corps staff that say their exposure to toxic chemicals from the late 1980s to the early 2000s caused chronic illnesses in view of the fact that the person commissioned to perform the first review (details supplied) has stated that they were not in a position to consider the substances in use or implications for human health arising from such use in view of the fact these issues are outside their competence. [43976/17]

Séan Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)


o ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason the report into allegations contained within protective disclosures relating to Casement Aerodrome fails to address that staff are at greater risk of serious illness as a result of their service at Baldonnel; and his views on whether these serious matters can only be properly assessed through a thorough health study and survey of current and former members. [44041/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38, 47 and 65 together.

The health and welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces are a priority for me; that is why I ensured that protected disclosures alleging exposure to chemical and toxic substances were investigated by an independent third party. The reviewer’s report has indicated that he felt that given the breadth of the remit of the Terms of Reference he commented in general terms on the Defence Force safety regime.

It must be remembered that prior to the receipt of the disclosures, litigation had first been initiated in relation to the subject matter of the disclosures. This therefore complicated the approach to be taken in developing any parallel process. Notwithstanding this significant challenge, I put in place just such a parallel process. In light of the legally complex situation, I believe it was appropriate that an experienced legal professional was appointed.

It was the view of the independent reviewer that the Courts are best placed to examine issues in relation to allegations which were already subject to litigation. This is so given the historic nature of the complaints, and, significantly, that it potentially affects the reputations and good names of individuals. What the report shows is the difficulty in putting a parallel process to the courts in place.

The report also notes that the Health and Safety Authority is the appropriate statutory body to deal with such allegations.

I have furnished the report to those who made the protected disclosures and, before considering any further steps, I will await their views.

Separately and in parallel to the independent review, following an inspection in 2016, the Air Corps has continued to work with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to improve its health and safety regime. I have been informed by the military authorities that the HSA has formally noted the considerable progress made to-date by the Defence Forces towards implementation of a safety management system for the control of hazardous substances. Subject to completion of the improvement plan the HSA investigation is closed. However, it must be noted that in the Air Corps health and safety is a matter of ongoing monitoring, supervision and adjustment.