Tony Moore: told the meeting could no longer be held at the ONE building

THE army intervened to prevent a meeting of soldiers concerned about the chronic health effects of controversial medication, the Sunday Tribune has learned.

Last week up to 30 people attended the inaugural meeting of an action group formed to highlight ongoing concerns over the use of the drug Lariam and fears that it has had significant effects on an as yet unknown number of soldiers.

Legal experts who attended the meeting said there is a clear duty-of-care case to be pursued against the Minister for Defence.

Lariam has been the subject of several legal actions in the US with claims that its many side effects include everything from serious depression to suicide.

The Irish Defence Forces (IDF) has issued the drug to members serving overseas and has defended its use as an essential protection against Malaria.

A meeting held at the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA) headquarters in Dublin last week brought together for the first time those who believe they are suffering from ill-effects.

However, the meeting was initially scheduled to take place at the Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women (ONE)?premises in Smithfield, a home for retired IDF personnel before the intervention of a senior officer.

In a letter to the Lariam support group, Ollie O'Connor, the chief executive of ONE, informed organiser Tony Moore that the meeting could no longer be accommodated.

"I was unaware of the intention of your group to hold a meeting in Bru na BhFiann on 13 October," he wrote.

"While attending a function I was approached by a senior member of the Defence Forces who brought the proposed meeting to my attention.

"Given the nature of the meeting I am of a view that by hosting such it could be perceived that Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann Teoranta was somehow involved in the organisation of the meeting and lending its support to your campaign."

O'Connor said that in that respect allowing the "sensitive" meeting to proceed at the facility would be inappropriate.

Those who attended were briefed on the side-effects of the drug; many of them were unaware of why they had been suffering from particular ailments.

It is also believed that the numbers will swell with attendees saying they were aware of other potential candidates.

Both a medical treatment plan and a legal strategy are now to be recommended ahead of the group's next meeting.

Speaking afterwards, Patrick J McGonagle, the solicitor retained by the group, said that there was a legal case to address against the Minister for Defence.

In response to comparisons raised with army deafness compensation, he said that while it is a smaller group of people involved with Lariam, the issue is more serious for those affected.

"The view we are taking is that it is an employee/employer relationship and it's primarily a case against the Minister for Defence as opposed to the manufacturer," he said.