Local February 22, 2013 | 2:41 pm

International correspondent and NGO leader to sue Intercontinental Hotel Group

A foreign journalist who has worked for numerous, prestigious newspapers and magazines including Time magazine, The Times, London, The Daily Telegraph, London and The Irish Times, as well as the BBC, UNICEF, the Soros Foundation, USAID and the United Nations Media Center, and his wife, an international photographer, are to sue the Intercontinental Hotel Group following a nightmarish experience after being forcefully ejected from one of its hotel properties in Santo Domingo, for no reason.

“I have travelled to and from many countries during my 30-year professional career, from London to Marakesh, from Paris to Jerusalem to Cape Town, but the treatment I and my wife, Columbia, an international photographer, received at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Santo Domingo was the worst I have ever experienced,” said Sean Hillen, both an Irish (EU) and US citizen.

“We had just arrived at the hotel from Dublin-London to work as volunteers on an international medical project (MACLA) for children, young people and women from the Dominican Republic and Haiti and had just unpacked our clothes in the room when we were ordered by senior management to leave the hotel. They did not give us any reason whatsoever for making us leave, even though I had left them our valid credit card for payment. They simply said another guest, Kansas City based Dr. Thomas Geraghty, a plastic surgeon, had asked them to put us out, so they did so. We had been booked into the hotel for two full weeks.”

Hillen, 56, originally from Belfast and has been awarded a number of international awards for his journalism and for his NGO support work over the years, said that an armed security guard, the hotel’s sales manager and the hotel’s revenue manager cornered him as he stepped out of the hotel sauna and said he would have to go with them and pack his own clothes and that of his wife’s immediately.

“It was really humiliating, both for my husband and for me, and extremely stressful,” said Columbia Hillen, 41, an Irish citizen. “We were rushed to another hotel in Santo Domingo, the Holiday Inn, and at not time was an explanation ever given to us though we repeatedly tried to find out what was happening. I have never had such a nightmarish experience. In the end, the stress got to us and we both ended up being treated in the emergency room of the Hospital General de la Plaza de la Salud, twice in the space of a few days last week.

The medical staff were very nice and we were fed a cocktail of drugs intravenously, as well had EKG and other tests completed. We there were for 10 hours and six hours respectively, on two separate days.”

Sean Hillen was previously selected by the United States Congress to be chairperson of a country Fulbright Commission for three years and is very prominent in the Democrats Abroad organization, the overseas wing of President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party.

He hosted a special international event in Ireland upon President Obama’s arrival in that country, another during the President’s recent inauguration and is due to host yet another when the US President visits northern Ireland for the key G8 Summit meeting this June. “It has been two weeks and we still have no explanation for the behavior of the hotel management,” he said.

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