A Dublin businessman who has been barred from leaving China for almost two years fears that the Irish Government is prioritising trade concerns over his safe return.
Richard O’Halloran (45) was speaking to the Sunday Independent from Shanghai, where he is subject to an exit ban imposed by a Chinese court despite not facing any charges or allegations of wrongdoing.
O’Halloran’s family, friends and advisors in Dublin fear the ordeal is taking a huge mental and physical toll on him as despair takes hold and they are increasingly concerned for his well-being.
The father of four young children was caught up in the complicated corporate situation after travelling to Shanghai in March last year to represent an Irish registered aviation leasing firm, of which he is a director, following the arrest of its Chinese owner in the city in connection to a separate company.
O’Halloran, a grand nephew of former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, has been stuck in Shanghai ever since. He told the Sunday Independent that he was “begging for action now, not words” from Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“There has been engagement, but this has been sporadic and not effective. The Department and minister have also engaged with the Chinese Embassy. The phone calls and meetings take place and then absolutely nothing happens. I hope I am wrong, but there is a sense that the Government is putting matters of trade ahead of individual rights, and not being properly proactive in seeking my release,” he said.
His wife Tara has tried to maintain an air of normality for their four children despite her husband’s despair.
“I’m sick with worry. I can’t sleep,” she said, speaking from the family home in Foxrock.
“I had to ring Simon Coveney yesterday to say can you please get someone from the consulate to check that he is still alive because I haven’t even had a response to texts. “
In August O’Halloran was resuscitated after his heart stopped in a Shanghai hospital after being found suffering a seizure in his hotel room that doctors said had been caused by chronic stress.
O’Halloran said he believes the Chinese court will not lift the exit ban until he transfers ownership to it of an Airbus A330 belonging to the Irish company he works for, something his Irish legal advisers say is impossible.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “The Department is very aware of this complex case, and has been in regular contact with the Chinese authorities regarding Richard O’Halloran’s return to Ireland.
“Our Embassy in Beijing and Consulate General in Shanghai have been providing all possible consular support and assistance. The minister is also actively involved. As with all consular cases, it would not be appropriate to comment on the details of this case.”
Source: Irish News