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Saturday 17 August 2019

Robinson insists she has 'no knowledge' of centre funded by Dubai royals

Controversy: Princess Latifa and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson at their meeting in Dubai in December
Controversy: Princess Latifa and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson at their meeting in Dubai in December
Intervention: Mary Robinson was photographed with runaway princess. Picture: Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The establishment of the Al Maktoum Centre for Middle Eastern Studies in Trinity College Dublin was perhaps bad timing for former President Mary Robinson.

The announcement came amid a renewed focus on TCD chancellor Ms Robinson's controversial link to Dubai's ruling family.

Ms Robinson was last night said to have "no knowledge" about the new centre.

It was funded by a foundation set-up by a different branch of the royal family to the one that hit the headlines after Princess Sheika Latifa allegedly tried to flee her homeland before being captured and vanishing for months.

And Trinity College said Ms Robinson had no role in securing funding for the initiative.

But she would not have faced questions on the matter if it hadn't been for her bizarre intervention in the Princess Latifa case six months ago.

Princess Latifa is the daughter of the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Months after her escape bid she reappeared posing for photographs with Ms Robinson.

There has been fresh criticism of Ms Robinson's involvement in recent days. It came in the wake of reports Princess Haya bint Hussein - Sheik Al Maktoum's wife and Latifa's stepmother - has fled the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The 'Free Latifa' campaign has renewed criticism of Ms Robinson claiming she showed "errors of judgment" by getting involved.

Princess Latifa made an alleged attempt to escape from her family and was not seen for months until she was recaptured off the coast of India in March last year.

In December, Ms Robinson travelled to Dubai where she was pictured having lunch with Princess Latifa.

Ms Robinson later described Latifa as a "troubled young woman" and the visit was criticised by human rights organisations.

The former Irish president insisted she made the trip "in good faith" and wrote a report for the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.

Princess Haya later told RTÉ that she invited Ms Robinson to "seek counsel as a family friend".

In February, at an event in Trinity College, Ms Robinson was asked by reporters whether she regretted the Dubai visit. Ms Robinson replied: "No because I went to help a friend". She also said: "She is the only member of the royal family that I met, or that I know."

Ms Robinson added she had spoken out before about human rights violations in the UAE and would do so again.

Now Ms Robinson's friend Princess Haya has reportedly left her husband and Dubai and sought political asylum in Germany.

Ms Robinson's spokesperson last night reiterated that "Mary has said that she will be respecting her [Princess Haya's] privacy in what is a private matter". She said Ms Robinson has "no knowledge" of the new Centre for Middle Eastern Studies in Trinity.

Trinity College said Ms Robinson had no involvement in seeking a donation from the Al Maktoum Foundation for the centre. The sum of the donation has not been disclosed but the Provost of Trinity Dr Patrick Prendergast described it as a "generous gift" in the press release announcing the initiative.

The new centre is a "strategic alliance" with the Al Maktoum College of Higher Education in Scotland. A spokesperson for that college said it was founded by the deputy ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum who also set up the Al Maktoum Foundation. A statement added: "HH Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum is not involved with the college in any way."

Irish Independent

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