Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has made a direct appeal to the Taoiseach to do everything within his power to ensure the safety of Irish citizen Richie Hedderman and women’s rights defender Helay Sultan from Afghanistan and her family, who are currently in hiding from Taliban extremists in Pakistan. The Sultan family were assisted in their escape by Mr Hedderman who travelled to Afghanistan to aid in the escape.
Teachta Brady said:
“I am calling directly upon the Taoiseach to use his influence to intervene in this matter immediately, to bring Richie, and the Sultan family to Ireland as soon as possible. Every moment of delay has potentially serious implications for the safety of Richie and Helay’s family. Minister Roderic O’Gorman’s department have the power to issue a visa waiver, that would permit the Department of Foreign Affairs the process of bringing them to Ireland.
This is an urgent matter which our government must act on. This is not a matter of politics. It is a critical humanitarian issue; where the Irish government holds the power of life and death over an innocent family, as the Irish government dithers over the granting of asylum.
“There is an Irish citizen, a young man from Dublin, Richie Hedderman, in hiding in Pakistan with a family of seven from Afghanistan, including a women’s rights defender, Helay, who is also a teacher and entrepreneur, her father, who is a university professor, and a brother, all of whom have received death threats from the Taliban.
“The Taliban have already attempted to kill Helay’s father in an explosion.
“While Richie Hedderman has been informed by US forces that he is now a target for extremists, he is very aware that he is the only, be that tenuous protection, that the Sultan family have from extremists.
“His presence as a westerner is the only thing that has stopped the family being killed to date. He has been told that if he leaves, the family will be executed within a short time.
“My office has spoken directly to Richie. He remains resolved to assist the Sultan family in any way that he can, to ensure their safety, and ultimately their escape from the Taliban.
“Richie is appealing to the government, to NGOs, and to all members of the Oireachtas to do what they can to bring the family to Ireland safely.
“But ultimately, it is the Irish government that have the power to sort this out today.
“The Taoiseach needs to ensure that Minister Roderic O’Gorman issues the necessary visa waivers for Helay and her family. This will allow the Department of Foreign Affairs to begin the process of bringing the family to Ireland.”