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Air Corps controversy: Minister says reports on toxicity at Baldonnel 'can't be found'

At least six people are taking action against the State for alleged exposure to chemicals whilst in the Air Corps.

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REPORTS DETAILING THE levels of toxicity in the air at Baldonnel Airfield have disappeared, TheJournal.ie can reveal.

A letter seen by this publication, which was sent to a TD, says two reports into the measurement of potentially dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and other airborne toxins cannot be located by the Defence Forces.

The letter from Paul Kehoe, Minister of State with responsibility for Defence, reads:

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

“In addition, an internal report was compiled by the Air Corps in 2014 in relation to a litigation case and in 2017, an occupational air survey was carried out by an independent environmental services company.

Unfortunately, following an extensive search and their having consulted with Enterprise Ireland (which superseded Forbairt), I am advised by the military authorities that it has not been possible to locate the earlier Forbairt reports.

The revelation has been met with frustration and outrage by a number of whistleblowers who say that these reports hold vital information in relation to their cases.

Six men are suing the Air Corps as they allege they became sick from being exposed to chemicals at Baldonnel.

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One told TheJournal.ie: “We’re not exactly surprised by this. We are being met at every turn. There are people who don’t want certain things to see the light of day. How can important files like this just go missing? Surely, there’s someone who has to be culpable.

“There are too many people who are affected by this. We think they were exposed to dangerous chemicals. This is bigger than the six of us. There are hundreds of people, if not thousands this may be affecting.

To tell us the files which can prove what we have been saying now are nowhere to be found. It’s all a bit convenient.

Earlier this week, we reported that two of the six men who are taking cases against the Air Corps have developed cancer since starting the litigation.

A new protected disclosure, also reported by this publication last week, alleged that a number of children of Air Corps staff have died as a result of being exposed to toxic chemicals.

A 2016 inspection by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) identified a number of shortcomings at Baldonnel with corrective actions then taken by the Defence Forces in relation to how it handles such chemicals.

According to the HSA report seen by TheJournal.ie, the Air Corps was warned it could face prosecution if it did not “comply with advice and relevant legal requirements” about how hazardous substances were managed, among other safety matters.

At least six former members launched legal proceedings against the State for negligence and Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe has ordered an independent review of what happened at Baldonnel.

There has also been a separate controversy surrounding the appointment of Christopher O’Toole as the independent assessor of the claims.

We revealed last month how the claimants have been left frustrated after finding out that O’Toole is a former senior official at the Office of the Attorney General, one of the bodies which they are taking the case against.

A statement from the Department of Defence read: “The State Claims Agency is currently managing six claims taken by former and current members of the Air Corps against the Minister for Defence for personal injuries alleging exposure to chemical and toxic substances whilst working in the Air Corps in Baldonnel in the period 1991 to 2006. Given these matters are subject to litigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Read: Two men suing State over Air Corps chemical exposure say they have developed cancer >

Read: ‘In one case, a retired member’s wife had eight miscarriages in succession’ >

Read: The other whistleblowers: Looking at the human cost of the Air Corps chemical scandal >

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