The early settlement scheme for army deafness claims which has been operating for the past two years is being abolished for new cases.

While the settlement scheme is ending from next week, claims can still be made through the courts. Over €240 million has been paid out in the past decade.

Speaking in Kosovo Minister for Defence Michael Smith said the settlement scheme was a luxury, which the taxpayer could no longer afford. The Minister was visiting Irish peace keepers in Kosovo and Bosnia.

On the final day of his Balkan visit, he said he was ending the out of court scheme for army deafness claims. Sixteen thousand soldiers and ex-service men have made claims over the past ten years with as many as ten claims a week still coming in. The Minister acknowledged that the army had made mistakes in the past by not providing adequate ear protection. All successful claims relate to the period before proper protection was introduced fifteen years ago. 

Many people regarded the deafness issue as something of a scam but the Minister insisted that there were many genuine claims and people were entitled to be compensated.

In the 1990s, the average payment was €50,000 but that has now dropped to around €10,000.

Speaking to RTÉ News Minister Smith commented,

I'm bringing the curtain down, an immediate closure on the compensation claims in the face of financial constraints.

It is hoped that this move will save around €5 million a year.

Eager to put embarrassment of the deafness claims behind, Lt Gen Colm Mangan Chief of Staff said,

Defence Forces have no put all that behind them. They've far more important work to do and they're firmly focused on their peace-keeping operations.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 25 July 2002. The reporter is Joe O'Brien.