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7 February 2018

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Fatal and chronic Air Corps cases must be investigated - Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD speaking in the Dáil this afternoon

“The Australian Government did not wait for the courts to decide. It took action. The Taoiseach must now accept that the time has come to order a full inquiry into these matters."

Sinn Féin has called for a full inquiry into fatal and chronic cases brought forward by members of the Air Corps.

There are currently seven cases being taken against the state by current and former serving members, who believe that their exposure to Toxic Chemicals during their service has led to serious chronic and fatal illnesses - including cancer.

A protected disclosure from a whistle-blower lists the deaths of 56 former serving Air Corps personnel at the average age of 48. It is based on the research of the whistle-blower himself in the absence of any state funded investigation into these matters.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, called upon Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to launch an inquiry after a number of failed state commissioned reports.

Teachta Ó Snodaigh said: “Numerous reports highlighted Health and Safety concerns at Aerodrome Baldonnel as early as the 1990s, yet no action was taken at that time.

“These reports mysteriously disappeared or were ordered to be shredded. Even after litigation commenced in 2013, basic health and safety precautions were not implemented in Baldonnel.”

In 2016 personnel were finally provided with basic protective equipment after a Health and Safety Authority inspection, which led the authority to threaten the Air Corps with prosecution if they failed to implement the recommendations of the report. Leo Varadkar’s Government has refused to publish the details of this report.

Teachta Ó Snodaigh continued: “Hundreds, if not thousands of personnel have passed through Baldonnel and may be suffering from chronic illnesses as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals during their service.

“There is also a possibility that families could be affected as evidence suggests a higher rate of various health conditions among spouses and children, including stillbirths and miscarriages.”

The Dublin South-Central TD noted the approach taken by the Australian Government on similar matters. They set up a board of inquiry to conduct a thorough investigation and commissioned a survey of health outcomes for the relevant personnel. On top of this they set up a healthcare scheme for those affected.

Teachta Ó Snodaigh said: “The Australian Government did not wait for the courts to decide. It took action. The Taoiseach must now accept that the time has come to order a full inquiry into these matters."

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