Independent TD Mattie McGrath has called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan to directly intervene with authorities in the United Arab Emirates over what he has called the disgraceful and inhumane imprisonment of Clonmel born Mr John White. Deputy McGrath made his comments after his own involvement with the case was made public by Mr White’s sister, Eileen O’Brien:
“When Eileen contacted me over four months ago; both she and her family were already extremely frustrated by the Irish Consular authorities approach to this case.
John had already endured an unjust two year imprisonment because of inability to pay debts associated with the collapse of his construction firm, when he was then sentenced in absentia to another three years following a civil claim made against him.
The sentencing in absentia is a breach of even the most minimal human rights standard and it has had a devastating outcome.
The fact that John is owed more than €1 million himself, while his debts stand at half that, does not seem to have entered the courts head as a mitigating factor in determining his ability to pay.
There was clearly no malicious withholding of debts and no failure on John’s part to accept the debts he must repay either.
In terms of the Irish Governments consular approach to this, one can only express utter frustration, even if after persistent work we managed a minor breakthrough.
Eileen and John’s own family feel that there has not been an adequate sense of urgency given to this matter, particularly in relation to the almost farcical inability of the family to obtain a copy of John’s passport from the Irish Embassy.
It is simply unacceptable for the Minister to say that we must not push for action on this and just sit back and let the grossly inhumane justice system of the UAE work itself out, especially where there are clear grounds for violations of international human rights law.
In January of this year the Minister for Business and Employment Ged Nash travelled to the United Arab Emirates on a 4-day Enterprise trade mission, where he held a series of political and business meetings.
Now, if it is acceptable that he raises the issues of quality control for exports and other political matters, then surely it is not beyond his remit or the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to discuss the quality of an Irish citizens treatment before the law in that Country?
I am calling on Minister Flanagan and indeed on Dr. Saeed Mohammed Al Shamsi as UAE Ambassador to Ireland, to step up their critical and much needed involvement in this case,” concluded Deputy McGrath.