Thursday 23 May 2019

Robinson 'had nothing to do' with press ban on her speech

Controversy: Mary Robinson, right, met Princess Sheikha Latifa in Dubai
Controversy: Mary Robinson, right, met Princess Sheikha Latifa in Dubai

Conor Feehan and Cormac McQuinn

Former President Mary Robinson "had nothing to do" with a decision that sees a speech she is to deliver to Ireland's top diplomats take place behind closed doors, her office has insisted.

Ms Robinson, who has been at the centre of controversy over her recent visit to Princess Sheikha Latifa in Dubai, is due to address a gathering of ambassadors in Dublin Castle today.

Her spokesperson, Bride Rosney, said the decision to keep the media out of the event was a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs. She insisted it is not related to criticism of her trip to the United Arab Emirates.

Princess Latifa, daughter of the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, made a reported bid to escape Dubai.

She had not been seen in public since reports she had been recaptured near the Indian coastline last March.

Ms Robinson travelled to Dubai in December at the invitation of Latifa's stepmother, Princess Haya bint Hussein, who she said she has "known and worked with" for many years on humanitarian issues at the United Nations.

The former President was pictured having lunch with Princess Latifa.

The nature of the visit has been criticised by advocacy groups Human Rights Watch and Detained in Dubai.

Ms Robinson has insisted that she travelled to Dubai to meet Latifa "in good faith" and has written a report of her visit for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

On Saturday, Princess Haya, one of the ruler of Dubai's six wives, told RTÉ's 'Marian Finucane Show' she invited Ms Robinson to "seek counsel as a family friend".

Ms Rosney is a former director of communications at RTÉ. She said she did not help to organise the interview between RTÉ and Princess Haya.

She said she worked with the former President in relation to the Mary Robinson Foundation on Climate Justice only and anything outside of that was handled by Ms Robinson.

RTÉ would not comment on how the interview was arranged.

Ms Robinson is due to address the 'Global Ireland 2025: Making it Happen' conference being held today to launch the Government's plan to double Ireland's 'global footprint'.

Ms Robinson is to give a 20-minute keynote speech on global challenges and opportunities for Ireland followed by a panel discussion. It is not open to the media.

Ms Rosney said this had "nothing to do with" Ms Robinson and was "not at all" related to the controversy over the Dubai visit. She said Ms Robinson's commitment to attend the event was in her diary for months.

A Department of Foreign Affairs statement said: "As in years past, the conference is not open to the public as it is a working conference which allows our heads of mission the opportunity to gather and discuss Ireland's place in the world."

It said tomorrow's speeches by Tánaiste Simon Coveney and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will be open to the media and will be followed by a press conference.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News