From top: the Newspaper panel on yesterday’s Marian Finucane Show yesterday, including Fergus Finlay (second left); from left: Princess Haya, Sheikha Latifa , Mary Robinson; CEO of Detained in Dubai Radha Stirling and RTE’s Marian Finucane
Yesterday on RTÉ Radio One’s Marian Finucane Show…
The newspaper panel was joined by CEO of Detained in Dubai Radha Stirling.
The panel was made up of Mary Whelan, Former Ambassador to Austria and Netherlands; Ken Murphy, Director General of the Law Society; Ciaran Hancock, Business Editor at The Irish Times; Fergus Finlay, former CEO of Barnados; and Amii McKeever, Editor of Irish Country Living.
Ms Stirling, via phone, discussed the reported recent fleeing of UAE’s Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, with her children, from her husband and prime minister of the UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
Princess Haya’s move follows the family of Princess Haya’s stepdaughter Sheikha Latifa releasing pictures on Christmas Eve of Sheikha Latifa with Ireland’s former president Mary Robinson – claiming the photographs were evidence that Sheikha Latifa was not being held against her will.
Up until that point, it was known that Sheikha Latifa was seized from a yacht off the coast of India the previous March and had not been seen from since.
Latfia’s sister Shamsa Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum was allegedly abducted from a street in Cambridge, England in 2000, by people associated with her father and brought back to Dubai.
During Sheikha Latifa’s bid to escape last year, she created a video in which she claimed Shamsa was a prisoner and had been tortured and mistreated.
Now that Princess Haya has fled, it has raised questions, for some, of Mrs Robinson’s move to visit Sheikha Latifa and pose for pictures with her before reporting that Sheikha Latifa was a “troubled” woman.
The discussion on Marian came ahead of Mrs Robinson’s scheduled appearance at an Irish Women Lawyers’ Association event on climate justice this Wednesday at Blackhall Place.
Ms Stirling explained that she had been on the phone to Latifa when she was seized from a US-flagged yacht off India. She said:
“She telephone me during the attack and said that she had heard gun shots outside, that she was frightened and asked me to please help. Then all communications with all people on board the yacht were terminated.
“And I didn’t hear from them until their later release.
“Unfortunately we haven’t heard from Latifa since then, except in the visit of Mary Robinson, attended in December at the request of Princess Haya.
“Obviously that was also widely publicised and she was criticised for having circumvented normal United Nations protocols because the UAE had not replied to UN requests to visit Latifa.
“And, instead, Princess Haya then asked Mary Robinson to come instead and she said that she was in the safe and loving care of her family.
“Now the world didn’t really believe that and now that we’re seeing Princess Haya coming out and saying that she was seeking asylum, that she’s fearful for her life and now she’s being taken to court by Sheikh Mohammed in the UK for the return of her children to Dubai.
“So she will obviously, during that court case, have to provide testimony as to the ill-treatment of Latifa if she’s to prevent the children from being sent back to Dubai.”
Following Ms Stirling’s comments, Ms Finucane played a clip of a previous interview Ms Finucane carried out with Princess Haya last January – in which she explained the reasoning behind her invitation to Mrs Robinson.
In the same interview, she said Latifa was a “vulnerable” woman and she was “receiving the love and protection of all of us”.
Ms Finucane put to Ms Stirling that Princess’s Haya had a “ring of sincerity”.
Ms Stirling responded:
“I would think so but given that she is in the position of being required, probably, to give that sort of testimony and now, with her subsequent actions and reports in the media saying that, following that interview, she investigated further into the case of Latifa and discovered things that she obviously didn’t like.
“She perhaps discovered the abuse, discovered that she was being imprisoned and you have to remember that Princess Haya apparently hadn’t seen Latifa since that attack, except for that single day [with Mrs Robinson] and didn’t see her after that one visitation.“
Ms Finucane told Ms Stirling that Mrs Robinson has a “very distinguished record as a lawyer and a human rights lawyer”. She then put it to Ms Stirling: “But you’re very cross with her about this?”
Ms Stirling said:
“Well given that it circumvented usual UN protocols where they would send a team of people who are trained to see whether Latifa was under duress during that meeting and Mary had a meeting with Latifa for several hours, or two or three hours perhaps, and then came out with a report saying she’s absolutely fine.
“And, clearly, from Latifa’s testimony, she’s never been fine in the custody of her family.”
Asked for his opinion on the matter, Fergus Finlay, who worked with Mrs Robinson during her presidential campaign, said, on the face of it, her intervention seems “odd” given she’s not a medical expert.
But he said anyone who has worked with her wouldn’t question her integrity “for a second”.
“I don’t understand this story. It seems incredibly complex and arcane.
“And, you know, all sorts of peculiar elements – divorce and acrimony and so on are tied up in it aswell. And obviously huge amounts of money at play.
“And it may be that Mary Robinson made an error of judgement in being dragged into the middle of it. I’d be amazed if anyone would question her good faith in the matter though.”
Mr Finlay later added:
“I’m really struggling to figure out how this story fits in and it may be my own stupidity, it feels very much like I’m being asked to comment on the third series of Dallas – never having watched the first two series. I mean it’s and incredibly complicated story of divorce and money and bitterness and so on…
“But I…is it more than that? Is it really more than that in this particular case?”
Later on during the discussion, Ms Stirling said:
“The issue is, in having done that [Mary Robinson visiting Latifa], Latifa’s case could have potentially been closed as far as the investigation is concerned. And the UAE, under such public scrutiny, with such disbelief over Mary Robinson’s report, should then cooperate with the further requests that the UN has made of them for visitations with Latifa.
“And they simply haven’t responded – not even to a request for proof of life.”
Ms Finucane asked Ms Stirling, given there are reports of Princess Haya seeking protection, not trusting the police, and fearing for her life, if there is the possibility that the story is “getting into the realms of the unbelievable”.
Ms Stirling disagreed.
“No I really don’t think we are. What we’re seeing is an increase in belligerent behaviour, coming from the Gulf Region. We’re seeing Saudi able to kill Khashoggi in an embassy in Turkey, we’re seeing an attack on an international yacht, we’re seeing, previously, his two children have been seized from outside the UAE jurisdiction.
“And I would say that Princess Haya is extremely, and also, obviously, his children…he has a history of unlawfully, extrajudicially returning his children back to the UAE. So I can understand why they would be on complete lockdown with extreme security.”
Ken Murphy, of the Law Society, referred to reports in yesterday’s papers, before saying”
“All I can say is, having known every little about this story until we began to…it is becoming more and more fascinating.”
Listen back in full here
Previously: Oh Mary