THE GOVERNMENT WAS aware of asbestos found on a naval ship in the past week more than a decade ago – and made arrangements for it to be removed at the time.
It is the third Defence Forces ship to be affected by asbestos in recent weeks.
The LÉ Aoife was taken out of action this week after a gasket, believed to contain asbestos, blew, leading to the ship being brought ashore in order for the device to be examined.
It is understood that staff involved are unlikely to have been exposed to the material.
Concerns that asbestos could still be on this ship were sparked when last week when several gaskets and lagging material were flagged by staff as a cause of concern during maintenance on the vessel.
A Defence Force spokesperson confirmed that these later tested positive for asbestos.
However, the issue was raised in the Dáil over a decade ago, when in late 1999 the then Minister for Defence Michael Smith said that asbestos was detected in “engine exhausts and manifold lagging” on the LÉ Aoife, as well as the LÉ Emer, LÉ Aisling, LÉ Orla, and the now decommissioned LÉ Deirdre.
Smith said the material would be removed:
The situation at present is that the firm of environmental consultants has been requested to prepare, as a matter of urgency, tender specifications for the removal of asbestos from these ships.
The ships were subsequently awarded a clean air certificate.
Minister Phil Hogan addressed the issue last month during Topical Issues, after asbestos was found on both the LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla.
In the case of LÉ Orla, work was permitted to carried out on the ship as the 2000 survey stated that “there was no asbestos on board the vessels”, Hogan said.
Naval personnel thought to have been exposed to asbestos last month after carrying out maintenance work on the LÉ Ciara are now seeking legal advice, in an incident described as a “failure of health and safety”.
“Naval Personnel remain our primary concern and all Health and Safety Authority guidelines were followed as those issues were addressed,” a spokesperson for the Defence Force said.
“It is expected that these vessels will return to service when the remedial works are complete, this is estimated to take a number of weeks.”
TheJournal.ie revealed last week that over 300 Defence Forces troops were potentially exposed to asbestos while serving with a UN peacekeeping force in East Timor.