Wednesday 14 November 2018

Unholy row over visas casts doubt on healing power of yoga festival

Eugene Moloney

AN UNHOLY row has broken out between the organisers of a weekend workshop hosted by a prominent Indian spiritual teacher and the Department of Justice.

The organisers complained yesterday that a three-day "spiritual, healing and yoga" festival to be held in Dublin on successive weekends may have to be cancelled because visas to travel to Ireland have not been issued to nine classical musicians from India - even though work permits have already been issued by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment.

But yesterday the Department of Justice said that any application for a visa should be made in the first instance to an embassy between six and eight weeks before the intended date of travel and this had not happened in the case of the musicians.

Catherine Walsh, one of the organisers bringing Indian yogi Swami Ji to Ireland, said the musicians were vital to the success of the event, which is to be held from July 29 to 31 and August 5 to 7 at the Basketball Arena in Tallaght and for which full-priced weekend tickets cost ?150. Up to 1,000 people were expected to attend, she said.

She claimed she was told by officials at the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment that, once work permits were issued, visas could be issued in a matter of days.

"We did a lot of work on this and were in touch with the Department but we could not even get anyone at the Department of Justice to answer the phone," she said.

However, her claim that visas had been refused to the musicians was yesterday disputed by the Department of Justice, which said the applications had still to be considered. A spokesman said the initial visa application had only been lodged at the Irish Embassy in New Delhi on July 15 and these had been forwarded to the Department of Justice in Dublin for processing.

"As has been clearly stated, visas do take between four and six weeks to process from the date they are received in Dublin," the spokesman said.

He added that the applications weren't such as could be processed at embassy level in India and said it would be unfair to other applicants to prioritise one particular case.

The weekend workshops, entitled 'When Love Comes to Town', will be conducted by Swami Ji, revered by his followers as a yogi, healer and spiritual lecturer.

Ms Walsh said Swami Ji spent three years and 108 days meditating in a sealed cave before his European tour. While in Dublin he will be staying in an apartment in Charlemont Street.

Musicians Mary Coughlan and Chloe Goodchild will also be performing at the event, say the organisers.

Ms Walsh described the event as as "a festival of love and healing", which was free for teenagers and for which concessions were available for students, the unemployed, the low-paid and community groups.

"Should we have to cancel the event, which we are very reluctant to do, Dublin will miss the unique opportunity to enjoy the biggest ever festival of love and joy with one of India's renowned spiritual masters and yogis," she said.

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