Government ‘should consider screening for asbestos illness’ from IRA bombs

The scene following the Manchester bombing in 1996
The scene following the Manchester bombing in 1996

The government should consider introducing a health screening process for those who may have been exposed to asbestos as a result of bombing campaigns by paramilitary groups.

The suggestion – made by prominent victims’ campaigner Kenny Donaldson – follows news this month of two deaths which have been linked to the carcinogenic substance.

Kenny Donaldson

Kenny Donaldson

Both of the victims – one a civilian security guard, and the other a detective – had been present at scenes of wreckage caused by IRA explosions.

Mr Donaldson, from the umbrella group Innocent Victims United (IVU) which is comprised of more than 20 organisations representing an estimated 11,000 people, said: “We are calling today for an acknowledgement by Government that it has a duty of care to those families who have lost loved ones to secondary related issues which can be proven to have arisen as a consequence of an initial primary ‘Troubles-related incident’.

“A family which has a main breadwinner stolen does not suffer less whether that individual is killed instantly or dies a death a number of years later because of what they experienced or were subjected to through the initial incident.

“We also are asking that serious consideration be given by government to providing a health screening process for those who were exposed to asbestos or other deadly toxins in the aftermath of bombing incidents.

“This State has a duty to identify other cases and to then enact the necessary interventions which could save or certainly prolong the lives of those citizens affected.”

The Northern Irish health service is presently under considerable pressure, with the News Letter having reported in November that close to half of people on an outpatient waiting list were waiting 18 weeks or more for an appointment – a massive rise compared with the figures just one year earlier.

Mr Donaldson added that “there are finer details which need ironed-out for such a screening process to occur, but we in IVU want to hear a commitment from government that they are prepared to invest in their citizens through examining what can be done around these issues”.

On December 15 this year, The Sun newspaper reported that Jonathan Woods, in his late 60s, had died after developing mesothelioma.

This is a type of lung cancer caused by asbestos fibres, which often besets those who have worked in shipyards or in other industrial settings.

Mr Woods, an ex-detective, had been on the scene after the Brighton Bombing in 1984, when the IRA reduced much of the hotel to rubble, killing five people, in an attack on UK cabinet ministers.

On December 25, The Telegraph reported that Stuart Packard – who had been present as a security guard in the aftermath of the IRA’s massive 1996 Manchester bombing – had died the previous month of the same disease, prompting campaigners for some of the IRA’s England-based atrocities to speak out.