What’s That You Say, Mrs. Robinson?

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From top: Mary Robinson on this week’s Panorama documentary about captive Saudi Princess Latifa on BBC 1; Grace Garvey

Mary Robinson’s brief appearance in Tuesday’s BBC Panorama documentary about missing Emirati Princess Latifa has raised more questions than it answers.

Robinson claims to have been misled by the princess’s family and says she felt ‘horribly tricked’ when photos of a private lunch she attended at the royal household were released to the world.

However, in a prior interview with BBC Radio 4′s Today programme less than two weeks after that lunch in December 2018, Robinson spoke about having filed a report on the visit to Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, saying:

” I sent her the three photographs that I was happy would be released to help the family to allow it to be understood that this is a family matter now and that she is in the loving care of her family.”

Furthermore, she managed to set aside her feelings at being a dupe to reiterate the official family line, that Latifa was troubled, vulnerable and receiving appropriate psychiatric care.

Mrs Robinson’s refusal to answer any further questions on the matter since then, until this week’s Panorama documentary, leaves us wondering what exactly caused her to feel hoodwinked.

She had agreed to the photographs being taken as proof of life – unlike Latifa who was a reluctant participant in the photo op; she had agreed to the photographs being released by the UN to show to the world that Latifa was still alive.

Presumably, her misgivings were caused by the photos being released by the UAE foreign ministry, and a mere nine days after the lunch.

Was she, on some level, feeling sheepish about accepting free flights and accommodation to the Arab state?  Was she embarrassed to be seen cosying up to an obscenely wealthy regime with poor human rights record? Or did she feel she had abused her former office as UN High Commissioner for human rights? We can but speculate.

Speaking to the Panorama team, Robinson said she had been misled by her friend Princess Haya, Latifa’s stepmother and sixth wife of the ruler of Dubai, who in turn had herself been misled.

It is worth bearing in mind, however, that Princess Haya is neither a trained lawyer nor human rights activist. She is the sixth wife of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, whom Latifa accuses of snatching her from international waters in March 2018 and falsely imprisoning her since. In other words, Princess Haya had skin in the game.

Lawyers are trained to be objective, told that objectivity is a professional value, and praised for their objectivity. Robinson owed Latifa – and the world – a higher duty of care than to be fobbed off with the ‘troubled young woman’ proposition. This is after all how families got rid of their headstrong daughters in bygone times. They were locked up and died in asylums. Or Magdalene laundries.

FreeLatifa is an international movement based around securing freedom for Latifa. It was set up by a Finnish national Tiina Jauhiainen, a close friend of Latifa’s who helped orchestrate her escape from Dubai in February 2018. She was on the ill-fated yacht when it was stormed by Emirati and Indian troops off the coast of India, kidnapping Latifa and bringing her back to Dubai.

The group feels that Robinson’s intervention – in a matter that was the subject of live legal proceedings at the UN – undermined the work of Michelle Bachelet.

They are at a loss to know why anyone familiar with UN human rights protocols in cases of enforced disappearances would pay a personal visit that could be used to manipulate media perception. They go so far as to question her bona fides, claiming:

‘Mary Robinson’s unwillingness to help Latifa raises questions about how much was she paid for participating in this Dubai government propaganda and about her role in supporting Latifa’s abductors.’

Criticisms levelled at Mary Robinson over the years centre on her apparent fascination with wealth, power and privilege, her need to keep the hoi polloi at bay, her lack of ‘the common touch’. Can she really have been so bedazzled by the oil billionaires’ bling that years of learning and experience went out the window?

Only one woman can answer that.

Grace Garvey is a Communications and Content Marketing Strategist. She is a former student of Mary Robinson’s at Trinity College.

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24 thoughts on “What’s That You Say, Mrs. Robinson?

  1. Joan Burton

    Why the interest and concern for this princess locked in a palace ?

    The country has an appalling human rights record and treats foreign workers with criminal contempt , maybe concentrate the media efforts on that ? Or maybe these poor workers not have the wealthy friends to influence media commentators ??

    1. ian-oh

      Because sadly people will sit up and take notice of a pretty princess faster than they will a young Bangladeshi man called Mohammad working 20 hours days and keeling over from heat stroke. Same for the workers in Qatar, worker dying from the heat but where is the outrage?

      As far as I am concerned, anything that highlights the abuses perpetrated by this bandit state are worth highlighting – if it needs to start with the people near the top and work its way down, so be it.

  2. Lilly

    The UN was in talks with the UAE, seeking an interview with the missing princess when this intervention by Mary Robinson pulled the rug from under them. Frustrating all ‘round, I’d imagine.

  3. lois

    locked up in the villa on the beach just doesnt have the same affect as locked up in the basement with no running water

  4. Charlie

    Who gives a fupp. The UAE and Dubai is a cesspool of privileged arrogant pervy hypocritical Arabs who abuse and imprison imported workers for profit. A blind eye is constantly turned by every nation on Earth. This shit is not even worth discussing in the larger scheme of crap that their royalty inflict upon their subjects and the people they employ/enslave from the surrounding poor countries.

  5. GiggidyGoo

    I wonder what would a current Authorized Biography by Olivia O’Leary would read like. Olivia will surely give us a 5 minute thought on Drivetime about all of this. As a follow up to her 1998 ‘The Authorized Biography’

  6. Truth in the News

    Did they donate the property for free to demonstrate the families altruistic values.
    Or was it persued as a competing project in opposition to the Jackie Clarke Museum
    Collection of Republican aferfacts…..”one wonders” as the acendancy were prone
    to mutter in times past.

  7. Jusiph

    This piece serves to critisise Mary Robinson, without offering any further evidence or timeline details that change or contradict her story. She is obviously not proud of potentially undermining the efforts of others to draw attention to Latifa’s plight, and no-one would argue against the fact that she obviously put her foot in it. But to make a connection with her actions and some supposed “fascination with wealth, power and privilige” is absurd and potentially defametory. But the final rhetorical question is really quite a disgusting and unfounded suggestion to be made about someone whom deserves at least some beneift of doubt, considering her background and service to our country.

    1. bisted

      …Mary Robinson represents the very epitome of a generation of self-seeking politicos who sullied the reputation of the Irish Labour movement and the memory of James Connolly…a ‘fascination with wealth, power and privilage’ is a reasonable summing up of those who betrayed their electorate and supporters for mercs and perks…the notion of then Tainaiste, Eamon Gilmore, giving briefings to the yanks/zionists, which would not have been exposed except for Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, is sickening…if they had any shred of decency they would disband…but, they don’t have any shred of decency…

    2. Lilly

      “…any further evidence or timeline details that change or contradict her story.”

      2018: I am happy for the photos to be published.
      2021: I was horribly tricked when the photos were published.

      What more do you need?

      1. Juisiph

        But that’s my point. In 2018 she believed scenario A and in 2021, with the benefit of hindsight and, amongst other things, a well-researched BBC documentary, she has taken a different position (we’ll call scenario B) and doesn’t dispute any aspect of Latifa’s current predicament (or her involvement in it) as described in the documentary.

        Robinson has not, by any means, covered herself in glory with her involvement in this situation, but the idea that she has intentionally supports Latifa’s captors has got no basis in anything Grace Garvey wrote in the above piece, despite how compelling it might read. Provide some facts, not just opinions on her character.

        1. Lilly

          She was interviewed in 2018 AFTER the photos had been published ie, after the so-called deception had taken place and is on record saying she was happy for the photos to be released. Last week she contradicted this statement and said she felt tricked when they were released.

          If this were true, she could have said so at the time instead of reassuring the world that the falsely imprisoned Latifa was fine. She could have set about highlighting Latifa’s plight. But no, what we got was radio silence. Like it or not, our actions reveal our character.

  8. Juisiph

    Yes I get that. But I don’t think she realised the “deception” until some time later. She came back to Ireland with a false impression that everything was OK.

    1. benblack

      Best friend springs to mind.

      She knew exactly what she was doing, at the time.

      Your defence is either blood or money related.

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