Irish Examiner

Ahern makes al-Jazeera appeal

23 October 2004

By Harry McGee, Political Editor
TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern last night made a direct appeal on al-Jazeera television calling on the captors of Irish aid worker Margaret Hassan to release her immediately.
The influential Arab television network broadcast a statement from the Taoiseach in which he described how the Irish Government and people had been deeply shocked by Ms Hassan’s kidnapping in Iraq.

In his statement, Mr Ahern stressed that Ms Hassan (whose maiden name is Fitzsimons) was born in Ireland and is an Irish citizen.

He also pointed out that she was a woman who had lived and worked in Iraq for 32 years and who was committed and attached to that country.

Government sources have not ruled out the possibility of Mr Ahern giving a live interview on al-Jazeera this weekend.

Mr Ahern’s intervention came hours after the station showed new footage of Ms Hassan in captivity was shown.

The head of Care International was seen making an emotional appeal to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, asking him to withdraw British troops from Iraq.

The video has led to growing pessimism in British and Irish government circles that the crisis will be easily resolved. It appears more likely that her kidnappers are motivated by ideological reasons rather than the prospect of a ransom payment.

In his statement, which was read out in Arabic on al-Jazeera, the Taoiseach said: “(Ms Hassan) is a person who has selflessly worked for the benefit of her Iraqi fellow citizens and fought for the rights of the Iraqi people for many years.

“Taking Margaret from her family is a cruel and shocking act. To harm her in any way would be unthinkable. I call on her captors, on behalf of the Government and people of Ireland, to release her immediately.

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