Terry Waite compares plight of refugees to his own captivity

Author and humanitarian to speak at Immrama Festival of Travel Writing in Lismore

Best-selling author and humanitarian Terry Waite CBE has compared the plight of refugees fleeing civil war in the Middle East and elsewhere to his experience of being held hostage in Lebanon three decades ago.

Mr Waite, who was taken hostage in Beirut in January 1987 and held captive for almost five years said that "in many respects those who are forced to leave their home country because of warfare or other forms of disruption are made captive to circumstances.

“In many cases they have lost everything and are dependent on the goodwill of others to survive. What is it like to be a captive and how is it possible to keep mentally alive under such circumstances?”

Mr Waite was speaking in advance of the 15th annual Immrama Festival of Travel Writing in Lismore in Co Waterford where, from June 15th to June 18th, various writers will speak on the theme "Emigration, Exile and Slavery".


Mr Waite who once negotiated with former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin for the release of hostages, is the author of several books including an account of being held hostage in Beirut, Taken on Trust as well as a comic novel The Voyage off the Golden Handshake.

Mr Waite explained that although he was not forced into exile, he will speak about his experience of being held captive in Beirut and how he used his extensive experience of travel to keep himself mentally alive while in captivity

According to the organisers, Mr Waite’s discussion of travel “will be unusual in that he will talk about how, from the confines of his prison cell, he was able to travel in his mind and find consolation and stimulation from the experience”.

Among the other keynote speakers at this year's festival is best-selling Wexford born author Colm Tóibín. Also due to speak at this year's festival is journalist and author Des Ekin who will discuss his 2006 best seller The Stolen Village which details the 1631 kidnapping by Barbary pirates of the inhabitants of Baltimore in West Cork and their subsequent sale into the slave market.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times