'It still feels like a dream' - Ibrahim Halawa arrives back in Ireland after more than four years in prison in Cairo
- Halawa arrives back more than a month after being released from prison in Cairo
- Friends and supporters met him at Dublin airport
- 'I'm very, very, very happy to be back', he told reporters
- Plans to work to help free people who are wrongfully imprisoned
Dubliner Ibrahim Halawa has arrived back on Irish soil after more than four years in prison in Cairo.
The 21-year-old Firhouse man was just 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.
He flew back to Ireland with his sister, Nasaybi, and Ambassador to Egypt Sean O'Regan.
Speaking to the waiting media after a private reunion with his family Ibrahim thanked the Government and all of his supporters for their help during his ordeal.
Asked what it felt like to be back with his loved ones he said:
"It still feels like a dream... this is the moment I've waited for for four years... a free man, acquitted after four years."
Ibrahim said there are still al lot of innocent people he left behind and added that he hopes to work to help free wrongfully incarcerated people around the world.
He said he will be taking some time to be with his mother who is ill.
The overjoyed young man also said: “I’m as Irish as you can be.”
“It’s just great to be back, I’m very happy, I’m very, very, very happy, I’m so excited to be home.
“The minute when I was on the plane and I saw the green land, it’s so green, it’s so beautiful, I haven’t seen the green in so long, I want to be with the Irish people, thank you so much.”
And he tackled head-on the criticism he has faced from some quarters after being arrested in Cairo at 17 while attending Muslim Brotherhood rallies over the ousting of democratically-elected president Mohammed Morsi.
"I really want to thank the haters," Mr Halawa said.
"They made me stronger, to come out and be ready for everything. Like they say, sticks and stones will break my bones ..."
His plane arrived in Dublin around 11.05am this morning as expected.
Minister Katherine Zappone, who represents the area Ibrahim's family live, posted a photo on her Twitter account which showed her giving the camera a thumbs up alongside Ibrahim.
Mr Halawa's sister Somaia, one of the most vocal and persistent campaigners over the last four years, tried to contain herself as she watched the outpouring of emotions.
"I don't think I'll ever be any more happier than I am now ... I don't think when I got married I was that happy, I don't think when I get kids I'll be that happy either," she said.
"I just don't think any single thing in life will make me so happy as this moment."
She explained the impact the homecoming was having on her mother.
"For her to see Ibrahim today that was something I can't express," she said.
Among the scores of offers of support to have flooded to the family in recent days, the simplest of messages came from the likes of Pete Moloney, an old friend from Rockbrook Park Secondary School in Dublin.
"He has a lot to catch up on, with family first of all, spending time with them," he said.
"He'll be a busy man."
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney also welcomed him back to Ireland.
Minister Coveney said: "This is a very happy day for Ibrahim and his family, and a day of great joy also for all of his friends and supporters.
"I and all of my colleagues in Government are very pleased that Ibrahim’s ordeal is now at an end, and that he is back home with his family.
"There will be many challenges for Ibrahim as he comes to terms with all that he has been through, and all the changes that have taken pace while he has been detained in Egypt.
"He will need time and space in the period ahead and I hope that his privacy and that of his family will be respected."
Among the supporters gathered to welcome Ibrahim back is childhood friend, Ramadan Duadu who said he last spoke to Ibrahim about their Leaving Cert results more than four years ago.
“Four years now, we missed him so much, we’re very excited to have him back,” he said.
“I’ve known him since I was a kid so we grew up together.
“We went to school together when we were quite young and then again for the Leaving Cert.
"The last time I actually spoke to him before all of this happened, was four years ago, we were actually just discussing our Leaving Cert results.
“It’s going to be really weird now coming back, we’re all graduating and he has to sort out his life,” he added.
He said they just want to help Ibrahim settle back into normal life.
- With reporting from the Press Association