Thursday 26 April 2018

Irish delegates spent €15k on 'worthwhile' trip to Egypt to negotiate Ibrahim Halawa's release

Ibrahim Halawa at Dublin Airport on his arrival home. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Ibrahim Halawa at Dublin Airport on his arrival home. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

Irish taxpayers spent over €15,000 on a trip to Egypt for eight TDs to negotiate the release of Irishman Ibrahim Halawa.

Ibrahim Halawa (21), from Firhouse in Co Dublin, returned to Ireland in October 2017 after he spent more than four years in prison in Cairo.

Ibrahim Halawa en route to Ireland with his sister, Nasaybi, and Ambassador to Egypt Sean O'Regan
Ibrahim Halawa en route to Ireland with his sister, Nasaybi, and Ambassador to Egypt Sean O'Regan

Mr Halawa was 17 when he was arrested in the Egyptian capital during mass protests in 2013.

After a protracted legal battle he was acquitted of all charges.

In January 2017, a team of eight Irish delegates travelled to Egypt to negotiate Mr Halawa's release.

The team of Irish delegates included Seán Ó'Fearghaíl (FF), Darragh O'Brien (FF), Colm Brophy (FG), Paul Murphy (AAA), Brendan Howlin (Labour), Noel Grealish (IND), Eoin Ó'Broin (SF) and Eamon Ryan (GP).

Figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act 2014, show that the trip from January 9 to January 12 cost the taxpayer €15,381.

According to the Freedom of Information records, the trip to Egypt was one of the most expensive trips for TDs and Senators of 2017.

Green Party TD Eamon Ryan, who was one of the delegates on the trip, said that it was very "important".

"It was a very important trip. Not just because we went over to try and release Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa, but because it allowed us to make connections with the president and parliament in Egypt.

"It is important that Irish delegates go out and meet other people in other countries. If we want to make it onto the United Nations Security Council, we need to make friends and get other countries to vote for us."

Mr Ryan said that the delegation helped to get Ibrahim Halawa released from prison.

"The trip took time and was frustrating but our goal was to see that Mr Halawa was released and he ultimately was. We helped play a part in that. The results from our trip weren't immediate, but it did achieve its purpose."

Another delegate, Darragh O'Brien (FF) said that "it wasn't an extravagant trip by any means".

"Over the course of the trip we had a very busy workload and our schedule was significant. We met with the Egyptian president and other leaders, which was good for our international relations. It was a very worthwhile trip, not just for Mr Halawa but also for our country.

"I understand that it was expensive, but you can't get hotel and flights for free. Everything we did, we had a budget in mind."

Mr O'Brien said that the trip did ultimately lead to Mr Halawa's release.

"We were part of the effort that led to his release. We had full access to the prison and it was great that we got to meet with Mr Halawa."

Sinn Fein TD Eoin O'Broin, who was also part of the delegation, agreed that the delegation helped secure Mr Halawa's release.

"It was a very worthwhile trip," he said.

"We certainly contributed to the release of Mr Halawa but we weren't alone in this.

"We visited the prison where Mr Halawa was and that was very important for his morale. Our trip was only one part of a bigger campaign to secure Mr Halawa's release."

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