Claim by 72 gardai for hearing loss could cost £2m


Legal action taken by 72 gardai against the State for hearing loss could cost more than £2 million.

However the Minister for Justice, Mr O'Donoghue, warned gardai that every case would be investigated thoroughly. He told the Fine Gael justice spokesman, Mr Jim Higgins, "liability is something that is not going to be conceded easily".

Of the 72 cases brought since 1982, 53 had been lodged in the past two years. Eight cases had been settled so far at an average cost of £32,000. The potential cost to the Exchequer based on the average payment would be more than £2 million.

One of the cases related to a single incident where mortars, found in a bunker, were being detonated, Mr O'Donoghue pointed out. The remainder related to claims from members who underwent firearms training and practice some time ago.

The Minister said he wanted to "assure the House that there can be and will be no question of any individual being successful with out his claim having received a thorough and detailed investigation from Garda authorities".

Mr O'Donoghue pointed out that the scale of claims from retired and serving gardai was nothing compared to the number of cases brought by Army personnel. "The problem is being monitored very carefully and arrangements are in place to ensure that every claim is thoroughly investigated." Gardai, he said, "are not exposed to gunfire to the same extent as soldiers, and only members of special units would have any appreciable exposure to gunfire. Even their exposure would be low compared to soldiers in the Army. Estimates of the risk of damage to hearing are generally based on average exposure over periods of weeks and years".

The requirement for gardai to wear adequate protection "when undergoing firearms training has been rigidly enforced since the early 1980s".