THE case of an Irishman who has been unable to leave China for almost three years will be brought up at an Oireachtas committee later this month.
Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell will raise the case of Dubliner Richard O’Halloran at the next meeting of the Oireachtas committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, due to take place before the end of January.
Senator Craughwell said: “The time for soft talk is long since past. We need to be assertive.
“What I am really concerned about is his physical and mental health. I will be raising it at the next meeting of the joint Oireachtas Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.” Mr O’Halloran’s wife Tara has been calling for government action to bring her husband home.
Mr O’Halloran has been in China since travelling to Shanghai in February 2019 to try to resolve an ongoing commercial and legal issue involving the Chinese owner of the firm he works for, aircraft leasing company China International Aviation Leasing Service (CALS Ireland).
The company’s chairman, Min Jiedong, is serving a prison sentence in China for fundraising fraud. Chinese authorities are reportedly looking for $36m from CALS or the aircraft believed to have been purchased with the funds raised.
Mr O’Halloran has been denied an exit from China until the issue has been resolved – even though he did not become a director of the company until after Mr Min’s actions. No charges have been brought against him and he has not been arrested or charged with anything.
His wife Tara remains in Dublin with the couple’s four children, aged between eight and 14 years old. She points out that almost three years of the children’s lives have been missed by Richard.
She says: “All I can do from here is try to reach out to our government to do something. We need some progress.”
Senator Craughwell said that Mr O’Halloran has missed out on watching them grow up, with his oldest son now a teenage boy. Mr O’Halloran’s case has been raised on a number of occasions by Oireachtas members.
She says: “I have been begging for help for almost three years and I am exhausted.” Although Richard is allowed travel within China, Tara says all he wants is to be able to return home.
He spent Christmas alone and, while he was able to contact his family through Facetime, they are struggling being apart. Tara says her husband has cooperated in every way with the investigation but is still no closer to coming home.
She also says there were times when his mental health has suffered and while this has now improved, she says: “He is distraught”. She says it is horrifying that he is missing out on all the day-to-day happenings in the lives of his four children.
At the family home in Dublin, all his belongings remain exactly as they were when he left for China. Tara says: “He is very present in our house but he is still not here.”
She and her family are extremely grateful to members of the public who have thrown their support behind them in their bid to have Richard allowed home.
A statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs said that ongoing consular assistance is being provided to Mr O’Halloran “through our Consular Assistance Unit in Dublin, our Embassy in Beijing and our Consulate General in Shanghai, while he and his legal teams work on the legal, commercial and financial issues through the appropriate channels.”
There has been "extensive and regular engagement at the most senior political and diplomatic level” with the Chinese authorities in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the Embassy of China in Dublin, “in relation to the humanitarian aspects of this case, and the importance of the citizen being allowed to return home as soon as possible.”
The statement concluded: “As with all consular cases, it would not be appropriate to comment on the specific details of the case. The Department of Foreign Affairs will continue to provide all possible consular assistance to Mr. O'Halloran until he is permitted to return to Ireland.”