Dáil Éireann - Volume 470 - 22 October, 1996

Written Answers. - Hearing Impairment Cases.

315. Mr. O'Dea asked the Minister for Defence the number of members and former members of the Defence Forces who are taking action against the State in respect of hearing difficulties suffered as a result of being exposed to gunfire; if the State has already paid compensation in some of these cases; if so, the amounts paid; the basis on which they were paid; if the State intends to admit liability in the cases pending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19075/96]

Minister for Defence (Mr. Barrett): To date some 4,300 cases have been initiated against the Minister for Defence and the State from members and former members of the Defence Forces alleging hearing impairment from exposure to gunfire. Approximately 2,000 are from former members.

Compensation paid to date in respect of such claims, including legal costs, is just over £5.3 million. Payments were made on the basis of legal advice or court awards.

Liability is an issue in each claim. It cannot be assumed that a plaintiff's loss of hearing is attributable to his service in the Defence Forces or that the military authorities were negligent in each case. Ear defenders have been provided to [949] military personnel for many years past. The plaintiff may have exposed himself to some other source of acoustic trauma, e.g. as a member of a gun club, or there may be medical evidence to suggest some other cause of his deafness, e.g. a previous illness or ear infection.