The Dáil has heard the life of Éanna O’Cochlain, “is in danger” with a number of TDs calling on the minister for foreign affairs to take urgent action in the case.
In July 2013, Mr O Cochlain, who is in his 50s, was convicted of smuggling 0.38g of cannabis through Laoag International Airport and sentenced to a 12-year prison term. However, he has maintained his innocence and says the drug was planted on him. He also claims he was taken into custody after refusing to pay off police officers.
The father of one, who had been travelling back from the Philippines with his Filipino wife Jo, spent a week in prison but since remains on bail with his passport seized.
But his family fear for his life as thousands of drug addicts and dealers have been murdered since Rodrigo Duterte became president.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan yesterday said the Government was very much aware of the case and had been giving it “priority for some time”.
AAA-PBP TD Mick Barry yesterday raised Mr O Cochlain’s case in the Dáil and asked the Government what actions they were taking to assist him.
“His life in danger, he is currently in hiding,” said Mr Barry. “That can be understood when you take the following into account: More than 3,500 drug dealers and addicts have been killed in the Philippines since July 1, by police operations and by armed vigilantes.”
Mr Barry told the Dáil that Duterte has “stood over” this campaign of murder. “This man’s life is in real danger, and his family certainly feel there has not been enough done by the Irish State and by your department to save him and to protect him.”
Responding, Mr Flanagan said the Government “remains most concerned about the health and welfare of this citizen”.
He added: “We have made our concerns perfectly clear to senior Philippine officials on a number of occasions.”
Mr Flanagan told the Dáil that he had raised Mr O Cochlain’s situation with Philippine authorities and the Irish embassy in Singapore and other consular staff are involved in the case on a regular basis.