Call for healthcare screening for Defence Forces members

Fianna Fáil has called on the Government to establish healthcare screening for members of the Defence Forces, as well as a health package for those who have suffered illnesses as a result of their exposures while working for the State.

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The demand comes as it was confirmed Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe has written to Sinn Féin to confirm that military authorities cannot find inspection reports from the 1990s that raised concerns about the working environment at the Air Corps headquarters at Casement Aerodrome.

The confirmation came following attempts by this newspaper to have the documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The State is defending itself in a number of legal actions brought against it by Air Corps staff who say they are suffering illnesses as a result of their exposure to chemicals while working at Casement Aerodrome.

Fianna Fáil defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers was critical of the Government’s approach to the matter.

“It is quite astonishing that the Department of Defence cannot locate these reports given I and others have seen copies of same,” Ms Chambers said.

“Simply saying they cannot be located is not good enough, there needs to be some explanation provided as to how these reports could have conveniently disappeared, given they point to serious health and safety issues at Casement Aerodrome dating back to the early 90s.

“I and my party have called for the minister to implement a health review of all potential former soldiers whose health may have been negatively affected due to slack health and safety in the workplace and to put in place a proper health package for affected individuals; to date the minister has refused to do so.”

Meanwhile, Mr Kehoe has written to Sinn Féin defence spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh, who raised the reports’ findings in the Dáil and has suggested their disappearance is part of a cover-up to hide the fact that the inspections’ recommendations were not acted upon.

“I have now been advised by the military authorities that there was a report on measuring CO fumes from aircraft compiled by Forbairt [which was succeeded by Enterprise Ireland] in 1995 and a further report on monitoring air contaminants in workshops in 1997 which was also compiled by Forbairt,” the letter stated.

“Unfortunately,... I am advised by the military authorities it has not been possible to locate the earlier Forbairt records,” Mr Kehoe wrote.

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