COOLING OFF ON VISITING MIDDLE EAST HOTSPOT.

I think many of us have been fantasising about the holiday of our dreams when this Covid nightmare is over.  Well, as of Thursday Dubai was stricken off our bucket list.  My wife simply said “ I’m not going there”.  What provoked this was the publicity surrounding the kidnapping and imprisonment of Princess Latifa, daughter of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum .  Her plight was broadcast by BBC’s Panorama during the week.  Even Mary Robinson got dragged into the story, supposedly being duped into thinking that the Princess was “ in the loving care of her family”.  She got some flak at the time.  One Human Rights campaigner saying she had been used as a willing pawn in the PR battle between the U.A.E. ruling family and the rest of the world.  Well, to be honest, I was far from convinced and now that Panorama has revealed her continuing incarceration, it must be seen for what it is.  A Middle Eastern autocrat behaving in a despicable way.  Throw in the way women are treated as third class citizens, and suddenly Dubai becomes a very unattractive place to visit.  Let us also remind ourselves that Dubai continues to provide the base from which Daniel Kinahan runs his criminal cartel.  Sheikh Mohammed is a great patron of the turf and likes to hang out with British royalty.  He also has extensive bloodstock interests here, providing considerable employment.  Many years ago I even enjoyed his hospitality, although I can’t say he was present.  Now I am afraid he should be treated as an international pariah and Dubai for all the glitter given a wide berth.

Speaking of incarcerations, who could fail to be moved by the case of Richard O’Halloran, who featured in Thursday’s Prime Time.  Entangled in what sounds a complex aircraft leasing scheme not of his own making, which the Chinese now deem illegal, he went to Shanghai to try to sort it out.  Despite co-operating fully with the Chinese authorities they now won’t let him home.  He has been separated from his wife and young family for 2 years and is clearly under enormous strain.  The government must now formally request for him to be released.

Prime Time also gave me a dose of optimism about the vaccine, courtesy of Luke O’Neill.  Doesn’t he just cheer you up.  Still I can’t help but look on in envy at the UK, most especially as my son-in-law has now had the jab.  Sterling has strengthened and leaders in the hospitality sector are calling for pubs, restaurants and hotels to be re-opened in April.  Something unthinkable here but a clear illustration of how closely linked rates of vaccination are to economic activity.

At the bottom of my heart I have a serious concern that the longer this goes on the Ireland of a 1,000 Welcomes will be hollowed out.  It will take a lot of imagination, and indeed money, to bring it back.  Let’s hope there are still the people to do it.