Tuesday 20 August 2019

Father of six exposed to asbestos at Bord na Móna site in 1960s, inquest told

Coroner to ask for confirmation of no further risk

Daughter Aisling, son-in-law John Tierney, daughters Maria McNamara and Dee O’Dwyer, son-in-law Noel Monahan and son Brian O’Dwyer. Picture: Liam Burke/Press 22
Daughter Aisling, son-in-law John Tierney, daughters Maria McNamara and Dee O’Dwyer, son-in-law Noel Monahan and son Brian O’Dwyer. Picture: Liam Burke/Press 22
Jim O’Dwyer

David Raleigh

An inquest into the death of a former Bord na Móna employee, who died from an asbestos-related cancer, has heard he was exposed to asbestos while working at one of the company's briquette factories more than 50 years ago.

Jim O'Dwyer (80), a father of six, was diagnosed with an asbestos-related tumour last August and died in October, three days after presenting at Milford Hospice, Limerick, for pain management.

Mr O'Dwyer, from Shannon, Co Clare, was employed as an electrical maintenance worker at Bord na Móna's briquette factory at Derrinlough, Co Offaly, from 1960 until 1965.

His family told the inquest at Limerick Coroner's Court that he said he was exposed to asbestos at the Offaly plant and that he was also exposed to asbestos while working in the UK around the same time.

His son-in-law Noel Monahan said Mr O'Dwyer told him he had been exposed to asbestos while "mixing the asbestos by hand and forming it into lagging pipes".

A post-mortem examination gave Mr O'Dwyer's cause of death as mesothelioma, a type of cancer which is associated with asbestos exposure.

"Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer, and it is a marker for asbestos exposure. It is a dormant killer that manifests itself many years later," said Coroner John McNamara.

He wondered whether or not others who worked at the Offaly plant could potentially have been exposed to asbestos.

The jury returned a verdict of occupational-related death involving asbestos.

In a recommendation, the jury asked the coroner to contact Bord na Móna to investigate if there were any current potential asbestos-related safety issues at the plant.

"Nobody knows whether it is or it isn't... they should be contacted, purely to find out," the jury foreman said.

"There's an answer needed here," he added.

Mr McNamara said the jury's verdict was an "appropriate one" and he will contact Bord na Móna, advising it of Mr O'Dwyer's case.

"I will ask them to confirm, if they haven't already, that they have commenced an investigation to confirm there is no further risk to members of the public or employees of Bord na Móna at their plant in Co Offaly," he said.

"I'm assuming at this stage that any asbestos-related issue has been removed from the factory... because it is over 50 years ago," Mr McNamara added.

Mr O'Dwyer's daughter Dee said that the family had concerns that other workers at the plant may have been exposed to asbestos "and that maybe their families might not be aware".

The family paid tribute to their father, saying: "He was a gentleman, quiet, and he could fix anything. He was even fixing windows at his house on the day he went to Milford Hospice, three days before he died," they added.

Bord na Móna has been contacted for a comment.

Irish Independent

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