Ibrahim Halawa: Motion

I move:

"That Dáil Éireann:

notes that Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish citizen, has been detained without due process in Egypt for three years since being arrested as a child of 17 years-of-age;

considers this to be an unacceptable infringement of his basic human rights by any international standard;

believes that the conditions of his imprisonment are of serious concern, given his young age, the length of time he has been in detention, his separation from family and friends in his home country, and having regard to his general physical and mental welfare and well-being, all factors which have contributed to the extreme suffering and distress being endured by Ibrahim in these circumstances;

acknowledges the tremendous distress his family in Ireland have been experiencing since Ibrahim's detention;

further notes that his, along with over 400 co-accused, trial date has been adjourned fourteen times, that the trial is due to resume in October, and that there is still no clear indication as to when it will conclude;

recognises that he has been designated by Amnesty International as a Prisoner of Conscience;

recalls that on the 17th December, 2015 the European Parliament passed a resolution by 566 votes to 11, calling for the immediate release of Ibrahim Halawa;

requests the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence to invite the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Her Excellency Soha Gendi, to appear before it to address the repeated delays in Ibrahim's trial and to request her to convey to the relevant authorities in Egypt this House's concern that Ibrahim Halawa should be released and allowed to return to Ireland as soon as possible;

proposes that a parliamentary delegation be established to visit the Egyptian Parliament and seek to arrange a visit to Ibrahim Halawa in prison;

welcomes the confirmation from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade that the Government will give its full and urgent support to a further application for Ibrahim's release by Presidential decree under Law 140 from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to allow Ibrahim to return to Ireland immediately, supports the Government in its continued efforts to secure Ibrahim's release and, while he is in detention, to provide all appropriate consular assistance to him and his family, including through regular visits by Embassy officials to Ibrahim in prison; and

resolves that this motion be brought to the attention of the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Her Excellency Soha Gendi, so that she may convey it to the relevant authorities in Cairo."

I welcome the opportunity this afternoon to support the motion before the House regarding the consular case of Ibrahim Halawa, a young Irish citizen detained now for almost three years in Egypt following his arrest during protests in Cairo in 2013. This consular case is a high priority for the Irish Government. In my first week in office as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I met Ibrahim's father, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, and I undertook to do all I could as Minister to secure lbrahim's return to Ireland and to ensure that we supported him while he was in prison. I was acutely conscious of Ibrahim's tender age at the time of his arrest - he was 17 years of age - and I continue to have serious concerns about the fact that he is subject to a group trial.

During my period as Minister and, indeed, prior to my appointment, when the former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore was Minister, this case has received unprecedented and sustained attention from the Government, particularly from my Department and our embassy in Cairo. I am aware of the sincere interest in this consular case in these Houses, and both I and the Taoiseach, and, indeed, other members of Government, regularly answer questions and speak on it in Parliament. In fact, I addressed this matter during parliamentary questions on Tuesday evening last. None the less, today is an important opportunity to again update the House on the actions being taken by myself and my colleagues in government in the furtherance of our clear strategy in relation to this case. This comprises two core elements: first, to see Ibrahim released by the Egyptian authorities so that he can return to his family and his studies in Ireland as soon as possible; and, second, to provide every possible consular support for his welfare while he remains in detention.

In terms of our efforts to secure his release, I and the Government are proactively using all of the tools that are available to us to apply maximum pressure on the Egyptian Government at the highest levels to ensure that it fully understands our concerns and the importance that the Irish Government attaches to the resolution of this case. However, the Irish Government has at all times supported applications for Ibrahim's release made by his legal team. This includes support for a bail application and support for the first application made under Egyptian decree 140 in 2015.

I want to be very clear on one point. There have been some assertions in the past that the Irish Government has misunderstood or misrepresented the provisions of Egyptian decree 140. We do not dispute that the text of this decree suggests that it is capable of being applied at any stage in the course of criminal justice proceedings and does not need to await a final verdict. However, what we have said, and what continues to be the position, is that the Egyptian Government has been clear and consistent in telling us on all occasions that it will not be considered while the case remains before the courts.

In light of the latest adjournment in the trial and in close and ongoing co-ordination with the Halawa family and their legal representatives, the Government intends to lend its full and urgent support to a further request for release under presidential decree 140. We will continue to work actively in support of these efforts. In fact, the Taoiseach conveyed this message directly to the Egyptian President, Mr. el-Sisi, on Monday last when he once again called him on the case. This was the third occasion on which the Taoiseach spoke to President el-Sisi about the case of Ibrahim Halawa. On Monday, he used the opportunity to once again convey and underline our concerns at the latest adjournment, and stressed yet again the importance that the Government places on this case. In the course of that call, the Taoiseach set out, as we have done in previous contacts with the Egyptian authorities, the arguments for the immediate release of Ibrahim Halawa.

The Egyptian President made it very clear that he understands that this is a significant matter of concern for the Irish Government. He pointed to the requirement to respect the doctrine of separation of powers, as the Egyptian authorities have done consistently, and said that the Egyptian Government is not in a position to intervene in a case which is before the courts. However, the President made clear to the Taoiseach that he wishes to see this matter resolved in the context of a positive bilateral relationship between our two countries.

For my part, I have had a long series of engagements, by phone, by letter and face-to-face, with my Egyptian counterpart, the foreign Minister, Mr. Sameh Shoukry, over the past two years since I was first appointed to this role. Last month, when in the Middle East, I availed of an opportunity to visit Cairo to meet Mr. Shoukry and once again raise the case with him, making perfectly clear the Irish Government's concerns and objectives. My visit conveyed the high importance that I, personally, and the Irish Government attach to this case.

Members of the House will be aware of the statement I issued on the day of the trial expressing deep disappointment and frustration with the latest news form the Egyptian court. Indeed, the following morning I met the Egyptian ambassador to Ireland and conveyed to her the deep concern of the Government at the unacceptably prolonged nature of the trial and my own concerns in the case of Ibrahim Halawa.

From all of these engagements, at all levels, I wish to assure the House that the Egyptian Government remains in no doubt about the Irish Government's position on this matter and our anxiety to see Ibrahim Halawa released as soon as possible. I wish to assure the House that the Government will remain resolute in pursuing its clear objectives in this case and in what we firmly believe to be in the citizen's best interests and what is most likely to contribute positively to a satisfactory outcome.

I welcome the motion. I believe it provides a mechanism to reaffirm to the Irish public, to Ibrahim Halawa and his family, and to our international colleagues that the public representatives of this House are working together to achieve the release of this Irish citizen as soon as possible.

I thank the Minister and the staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, particularly in the consular section, for the work they have done and the contact they continue to have with the Halawa family, who are here today and who were here earlier on. On behalf of my party, I met Somaia Halawa and kept in contact. I have raised the matter of Ibrahim's ongoing detention without trial in Egypt directly with the Minister by way of parliamentary questions and at the foreign affairs committee.

Fianna Fáil supports the motion. We were happy to sign it. It is important that the Dáil speak with one voice on this. The motion will convey a message to the Egyptian authorities that Dáil speaks with one voice of its concern about the ongoing detention without trail of Ibrahim Halawa, who was, let us remember, arrested at the age of 17.

I fully understand the separation of powers within Egypt. I am aware that the Government has on a regular basis been in contact with the Minister's counterpart and the Taoiseach has been in touch, but it is important, when one looks at the facts of this situation, to note that there is an Irish citizen detained without trial who was arrested aged 17 and who has been in prison for more than 1,000 days. Furthermore, I am particularly concerned about the conditions in which he is detained, the threat to both his physical and his mental health, and the fact that in our view it is not satisfactory that there is a group trial such as this with more than 430 co-defendants.

We were particularly disappointed to see a further adjournment of the trial for the thirteenth time. I note that a new date of 2 October has been set. Our difficulty is that there should be no further postponement of this trial, and I ask the Minister to convey this to the Egyptian authorities through his counterpart in Egypt as our earnest wish.

The Minister has outlined when Egyptian decree 140 could be moved and should be sought with the Egyptian authorities but our concern as a party is specifically that due process has not been followed and the delays in the court system in Egypt are unacceptable to us. Ibrahim has been grouped with over 430 co-defendants and will not get a fair trial. It is incumbent on us as a Parliament to do everything we can to ensure Ibrahim is brought back to his country of Ireland as soon as possible. He and his family have suffered distress over those three years because of his detention, and the facilities and manner of his ongoing detention are something we cannot allow to continue.

I ask the Minister to continue his efforts after what I assume will be the unanimous passing of this motion. It would be a strong message going to the Egyptian Government, its Parliament and its courts that Dáil Éireann speaks as one on this. We earnestly hope that good relations between our countries continue. We all know it is a sovereign state but if the shoe was on the other foot, with an Egyptian citizen detained without trial in Ireland for over three years, with ongoing delays to court hearings and proper due process not being followed, I am sure the Egyptian authorities would make contact with the Minister and correctly raise issues about the treatment of such a citizen in Ireland.

We want to see a finality to this process. This young man has been detained and in our view it is an illegal detention that has been going on for over three years. What does the Minister propose to do after the passing of this motion and the next steps in this regard, particularly about what can be done to impress upon the Egyptian authorities the need for the case to be heard on 2 October? Has the Minister or those in his Department any confidence that the trial hearing will take place on 2 October? Will he inform me as to whether we could at this stage seek formally the presidential decree 140 now or must that wait until the trial is heard?

As a party we want to see Ibrahim back in Ireland. We are very concerned about his physical and mental health and the way he has been treated. I ask the Minister to redouble his efforts and those of his staff and colleagues within the Department and the Government to impress upon the Egyptian authorities the need for Ibrahim to be released without further delay.

Cuirim fáilte mhór roimh an rún seo. Níl Ibrahim Halawa ach 20 bliain d'aois. Tá sé faoi ghlas anois ar feadh trí bliana. Tá sé sin thar a bheith mí-cheart agus caithfimid go léir brú níos láidre a chur ar Rialtas na hÉigipte as seo amach. Ibrahim was only 17 when he was arrested, a child, and he has spent the past 1,054 days incarcerated in a filthy and over-populated Egyptian jail. He was not charged for a year after his arrest and is now part of a sham mass trial, with no hope of ever receiving fair treatment in sentencing. His trial has been postponed an incredible 14 times. He has also detailed the ill-treatment and torture he has faced, as well as what other prisoners have been subjected to. It is despicable.

This Government’s strategy to date, although very well intended, in attempting to secure his release has clearly been unsuccessful. I am not saying the Government has done nothing for Ibrahim and we know the amount of consular visits he has received, as well as interventions by the Minister and the Taoiseach. The quiet diplomatic approach and the tactic of waiting for a verdict before applying for a presidential decree has failed Ibrahim and his family. I welcome the indications today that the Government will support an application for a presidential decree 140 on Ibrahim's behalf.

We are reliably informed this decree has always been available to the Irish Government pre-sentencing, despite the Government saying the opposite. The Sinn Féin MEP, Ms Lynn Boylan, contacted the Australian journalist, Mr. Peter Greste, who was released under the presidential decree, and his legal team. It was explained to Deputies, Senators and the media that the presidential decree was available pre-sentencing and that is how Mr. Greste was released. A successful application would allow Ibrahim to return to Ireland before a final ruling has been made in his case, and this is used in cases where a deportation or extradition would serve the "higher interest" of the Egyptian state.

At Ibrahim’s most recent trial the judge decided to release two defendants for no reason and, more worryingly, three of the 493 defendants in the trial have died since the last hearing. This demonstrates how urgent it is for the Government to act. There is a window of opportunity between now and 2 October for maximum diplomatic pressure from an Taoiseach, an t-Aire, Deputy Flanagan and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to be exerted on President el-Sisi. Ms Boylan, MEP, has visited Ibrahim in prison and detailed the devastating impact of Ibrahim’s incarceration. His sisters, in a very articulate manner, have outlined the difficulties in the plight he is enduring. Ms Boylan, MEP, last visited him 11 months ago so I can only imagine that all of this has significantly worsened.

The European Parliament, on the initiative of Ms Boylan, MEP, passed a motion calling for Ibrahim’s release by 566 votes to 11. I very much welcome today's motion calling for his release and for the Government to make an application for the presidential decree. I hope he will be home with his family and friends soon. Sinn Féin will continue to work with others to highlight this case and to press the Government to do all it can to ensure that Ibrahim is returned to Ireland. We extend continued solidarity to family. The Government must act assertively to stand up for human rights and ensure our fellow citizen is urgently returned to Ireland.

As one of the few people here who was incarcerated at Long Kesh and the H-blocks, I know none of the conditions I endured, apart from the protest leading to the hunger strikes, matched what I have been told this young man is being put through. We must put an end to it or at least ensure we do everything possible to put an end to it.

In the scheme of the enormous political pressures in the Arab world, particularly in Egypt, Ibrahim Halawa is just one young man caught up in conflict and change. He has now been incarcerated for three years and at this point and there is separation of powers in Egypt between the government and the courts. A large amount of work has been done by the Government, Ministers and diplomats in particular to lobby on his behalf and, importantly, to support him through consular visits. There have been different representations made by Irish political parties both to Egypt and to the Egyptian Ambassador in Ireland. None of these has borne any fruit.

The Chilcot report published yesterday brings us back to what was a disastrous decade following the wrong decision to invade Iraq and prosecute a war there. There was a period when the Arab Spring across north Africa and other parts of the Arab world stood for hope and a development of new forms of democracy there.

It is disappointing, notwithstanding the spirit of the Arab Spring, that this young man has now been in jail for such a long period without any certainty as to when the courts may deal with his situation. There are remedies that could be used by the Egyptian Government and which have been used in a small number of other cases, such as deportation and law 140. On behalf of the Labour Party, I plead with the Egyptian Government to address this individual case.

Like others, I have met various members of the family here in Ireland. I have also made direct representations to the Egyptian authorities and to the Egyptian ambassador to Ireland, H.E. Soha Gendi. This motion is appropriate. Ibrahim wants to be restored to his family in Ireland. His family has campaigned tirelessly on his behalf for all the years of his incarceration. The Egyptian legal and trial structure is complex and quite different from ours, but nonetheless the Irish Government can give undertakings that if the Egyptian Government were to use the flexibility I understand is available within the Egyptian legal code, he could be restored to his family. Relations between Egypt and Ireland go back a long time. The consular officials who have visited him continually since his incarceration have been very important in helping both to maintain better conditions for him and in keeping his spirits up. It is very difficult to be imprisoned at such a young age, at 17, when technically still a child, to be held in prison and to have trial dates postponed endlessly. In the run-up to each trial date a hope has been held out that a resolution could be found and then those hopes are dashed. I hope all the support Ibrahim has received, both from his own family and through the Dáil today, through a common expression on this motion, will help to sustain him in what will continue to be extremely difficult circumstances until eventually he is freed and he is restored to his life in Ireland, as a citizen of this country, and to his immediate family.

Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Paul Murphy are sharing time. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I support and welcome this all-party motion as an escalation, at least, of the political intervention of this House in securing the release of Ibrahim Halawa, a prisoner of conscience. I pay tribute to his family for their resoluteness in continuing to fight for the release of their brother. However, I have to be honest and say that I do not believe we are going to secure his release until we realise what we are dealing with. It is simply inaccurate for people to recycle the claims of the Egyptian Government that there is a thing called the separation of powers in Egypt. There absolutely is not. All semblance of any kind of legal due process, anything one could even remotely call a legal process, has been abandoned by the el-Sisi regime. The police and the judiciary are now nothing more than tools of the counter-revolution that is taking place in Egypt, which is vicious and cruel in its character.

I spoke to one of the Egyptian Arab Spring activists at the weekend who told me just how bad it is. Some 3,000 people have been killed by the security forces over the past year or two in the counter-revolution. There are now 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt. The Egyptian regime is currently building 16 new prisons to hold political prisoners. Nobody is allowed go to football matches in Egypt anymore. Football matches are played in front of empty stadiums now. Such is the level of repression that they will not even allow people to watch football matches. It is vicious. Disappearances are happening daily. In Alexandria in the past month or so, 20 people disappeared and shortly afterwards the police went into the hospital and demanded that the doctors write out falsified medical certificates about those people. This is extraordinary stuff.

We have to stop treating the Egyptian regime with kid gloves, pretending it is normal when in fact it is engaged in ruthless suppression of its own population and one of our citizens has been caught up in this. We have to call them for what they are and we have to talk about sanctions. We need to demand them at European level and be willing to impose them ourselves.

It is worth recalling the basic facts of what is facing Ibrahim to demonstrate that the notion of due process is a complete joke in a country like Egypt is at present. We have an Irish citizen, Ibrahim Halawa, who has now been in prison for more than 1,000 days. He is imprisoned in conditions that have been described as a nightmare, with concrete beds and permanent lockdown, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He is in prison because he participated in a peaceful protest and for that he is charged with terrorism, with the use of explosives, and with murder. He faces a mass trial with close to 500 people where he faces the threat of the death penalty or life imprisonment. There is zero chance of Ibrahim Halawa getting justice through the Egyptian judicial system. He is the victim of a bloody counter-revolution.

I accept that everyone in this House wants to see Ibrahim released. That is clear. The question is whether the Government's strategy so far has worked. We have raised this on multiple occasions and every time the Minister says the Government is doing its very best but there is a separation of powers and it cannot interfere in the administration of justice in another country. Most recently, we heard that the Government expected the trial would go ahead on 29 June and that afterwards the presidential decree could be applied for under law 140. I presume that came from the Egyptian authorities. It did not happen. We had the 14th delay of the trial. It is time to draw some conclusions. It is not a narrow partisan political point to say the approach of the Government until now has clearly failed. The Egyptian authorities are clearly treating the Irish authorities as fools, and the approach of not rocking the boat now has to end. The Government cannot accept the bona fides of these people or their honesty when they are negotiating. It cannot expect that they are going to allow justice to run its course and to allow Ibrahim to come home.

We have to take action now. We must immediately make an application under law 140 for his release and we should summon the Egyptian ambassador immediately. If we do not have action, we should threaten to and then actually withdraw our own ambassador. The point Deputy Boyd Barrett has raised regarding trade relations is key. We know there are trade relations. We have to use the full force we have to demand an immediate release and not to accept that the situation continues.

Deputies Mick Wallace and Clare Daly are sharing their time. Is that agreed? Agreed.

What we do know about this situation is that an Irish citizen was arrested while still a minor. He has been imprisoned for three years without trial. He has been subjected to serious human rights abuse. Ireland, I am sure, has made efforts at a diplomatic level, but whatever approach is being taken, if it has not worked in three years then it just is not working. Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is sometimes described as insanity.

We are talking about a brutal dictatorship. Why in God's name did we just sign a cattle deal with them last year? That sends them a signal that we do not really care that much. The Government introduced sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. There were 47 heads cut off in Saudi Arabia earlier this year and we expressed concern about it, but we did not touch the trade relations. We leave the Israelis alone no matter how many children they kill in Gaza.

We make these decisions and people are aware of them. They know what we do and how we feel about things. I am sure the Russians were unhappy that we agreed with trade sanctions against them and I am sure the Egyptians are very happy that we have not been part of any such measure. The Americans cut off their annual military aid for two years, which had been worth €3 billion to them. Then they renewed it again saying, "All is grand."

This is a rotten, brutal dictatorship. How can one talk about justice in Egypt when there is no justice for ordinary people? I am sure huge efforts have been made at a certain level but the softly, softly approach is not working. Is it possible for us to take a different turn? How badly do we want Ibrahim Halawa to be treated fairly? How badly do we care? If this young fellow was the son of a wealthy Irish business family, would he still be in prison in Egypt?

I appreciate the fact that time is being allowed for this discussion and I am glad we will have agreement across the House. I do not believe it amounts to nothing, but it is not enough. Since last year some 22 official pieces of paper have been passed back and forth on this issue and I am sure the Egyptian authorities will not be quaking at the prospect of another one. It is just not enough. The mental and physical damage that has been done to this young man, a child at the time of his incarceration, will never be undone. We are now involved in a race to rectify this damage, or at least to stop it from getting worse.

The talk about process and the separation of powers is utterly disconnected from the reality on the ground. We are giving false signals which we have to rectify. On 15 February this year, the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, boasted about a trade deal his Department had struck. He said:

This agreement is a significant boost to the live export trade in Ireland. The addition of market like Egypt, which has been a very significant importer of Irish cattle in the past, to the list of markets open to Irish exporters, is a timely boost.

Timely? On the same day the Minister celebrated the striking of that deal, Ibrahim Halawa had been held captive, without trial, in the most atrocious, violent conditions and in breach of all human rights legislation, for 922 days. Why would we replicate a strategy that has not worked? We need to escalate matters and make the application for a presidential decree, but we have to use trade as leverage. The Australian foreign Minister warned the Egyptians there would be ramifications for Australia's relationship with Egypt if it did not release its citizen. The Australians also said that Egypt's reputation would be damaged, and we also have to start playing hardball on this matter.

I will speak for this motion on behalf of the Rural Alliance and I thank the Business Committee for presenting the motion. I also thank the Government for listening, because it has gone past time for us to take action. I thank the Minister, his officials, and the embassy staff and diplomats for all their hard work since the incarceration of Ibrahim Halawa almost 1,000 days ago. While some progress has been made, it seems to be very little. I understand how delicate the negotiations can be, but it is vital that we invoke decree 140 and look for a presidential decree because of the conditions in which this young man is incarcerated, which are appalling by any standards. We get lectures from the international human rights commission on a daily basis about matters involving legislation in this country, some of which are none of their business, but I wonder where they are in this case, in which atrocities are happening.

People have spoken of the invasion of Iraq, the destabilisation of the Middle East and the war in Syria, as well as what is going on in Egypt, and there has been a seismic shift in the region. There has been a cleansing of Christian communities and a loss of civil rights for their own people. We have to look at this. The region was reasonably stable before the invasion and there was protection for different ethnic groups and religions, but there is none now under these regimes. It is very serious and I am glad the Minister has agreed to meet members of the Rural Alliance in the coming weeks to discuss the depravity of this situation. One must remember this young chap and the frustration of his family at home.

I do not agree that if it was an Irish businessman's son it would be very different, as I believe we are dealing with a totally reckless regime which operates with an iron fist. It is difficult to deal with a regime that can keep a person incarcerated for that length of time. We have seen videos and pictures of people being taken out and doused in honey for insects to attack and this is depravity of the highest order. It is not acceptable in any society. We should not go over the top with our reactions, as we know who we are dealing with and we need to have a modicum of balance in our comments, even if we would like to say other things.

I believe a delegation, led by the Ceann Comhairle, will visit and I wish it success. The whole Parliament will be represented but we need to give it impetus. Both Dáil and Seanad Members will be involved to represent the people of Ireland and plea for some semblance of justice, which will be difficult to get. The only justice will involve getting him out of there and home by means of a presidential decree. We have had countless court dates but nothing has happened and they do not seem to be listening to the Irish Government and others. It is our duty and responsibility to leave no stone unturned and to send the highest-level delegation to make our request. We need also to ask our European neighbours to help us out so that the authorities will listen and the young man can be repatriated to his family here in Ireland.

I believe Deputies Catherine Martin and Róisín Shortall are sharing time.

I will take four minutes. I acknowledge and thank all the Members in the House for uniting behind what started as a motion tabled by myself and my Green Party colleague Deputy Eamon Ryan, but has evolved into a strong cross-party motion under which we, as members of this House, cast party politics aside and unite today in seeking justice for an Irish citizen, Ibrahim Halawa.

We recognise that the Department and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade have dedicated a lot of time, effort and resources to Ibrahim's case and a number of politicians from different parties have also kept in close contact with Ibrahim's family to see how best to ensure his safe return home. I met with the Egyptian ambassador and I regret to say I could take nothing from that meeting that gave me confidence or hope in the short term. With the further deferral of the trial process last week, it was clear that a more united approach is needed whereby we, as a Parliament, stand up for his rights and call on the Egyptian Government to exercise its powers under decree 140 in the Egyptian statute book to issue a presidential decree and ensure his release. We do so citing the fact that, when arrested three years ago, Ibrahim Halawa was a child of 17 years of age. His case has now been adjourned 14 times and he has been recognised by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience held for more than three years without a trial.

Justice delayed is justice denied - that is, if one takes a huge leap of faith that Egypt operates a proper system of real justice, but there is no evidence to date that it does.

We propose that a parliamentary delegation from this House visit the Egyptian Parliament, and Ibrahim, to help resolve matters. We look forward to hearing from the Egyptian ambassador in that regard. She must start to appreciate that many have zero confidence in Egypt's purported system of justice. I hope there will be a speedy response from her as we try to comprehend the anguish that Ibrahim's family has been feeling over the past three years. I welcome members of Ibrahim's family to Leinster House today as they watch this debate, and commend the way in which they have tirelessly campaigned for his release in a peaceful and determined manner.

We must exhaust all options in ensuring Ibrahim's release, but a stage may be arrived at where all our diplomatic representations and efforts continue to fail, including perhaps a direct intervention by the Taoiseach where, rather than telephone calls, a face-to-face meeting of the Taoiseach with the Egyptian President is requested as a matter of urgency, with Ibrahim being the sole issue on the agenda. Should that fail, however, I suggest that at that stage it may become necessary for the Egyptian authorities to be made aware that some consideration would have to be given to suspending diplomatic relations with a country which continues to unjustifiably detain one of our citizens who was a child at the time of his arrest and that this is unacceptable.

Ibrahim Halawa - we say his name loudly and clearly here today so that Egypt hears one united voice saying that Ireland will not stand for the continued imprisonment and ill treatment of Ibrahim - is one of our own. Standing up for him says something about our sense of ourselves as a nation. We are in many respects his only hope - his last hope - and I am glad that we are standing together here today to demand the release of our own citizen, Ibrahim Halawa.

I want to put on record the support of the Social Democrats for this initiative and the motion before the House. We all accept it is an outrage that a 17 year old Irish citizen, having visited Cairo with family members and participated in political protest, should find himself arrested, incarcerated and held in the most appalling conditions for the past three years. It is impossible for us to comprehend fully what that experience must be like for Ibrahim, and it is impossible to understand the full extent of the anguish and trauma his family must be feeling.

Undoubtedly, it is time to step up official efforts. We fully support the proposals before us to call in the Egyptian ambassador, appoint a delegation to travel to Cairo to speak on our behalf and, if necessary, consider the prospect of trade sanctions if that is what is required to ensure the release and a presidential pardon for this Irish citizen. We need to act urgently.

The next speakers are the Ministers, Deputies Zappone and Ross, and Deputy Brophy, who will share a five-minute slot. They have just over one and a half minutes each.

Today we have an opportunity to speak as united elected representatives of the people of Ireland and to send a message of solidarity, determination and hope which can be heard not just by the Egyptian authorities but, I strongly hope, by my constituent Ibrahim Halawa in his cell. I think about him every day and, as previous speakers have done, I want to welcome his family, especially the brave and inspiring Somaia, to the Visitors' Gallery.

I am very encouraged that TDs from all sides of the House support this motion and I want to be clear that it is an issue not just for the Halawa family or for the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, and his officials, but for every person in Ireland. I also want to acknowledge the initiative from Deputies Eamon Ryan and Catherine Murphy of the Green Party in bringing forward this motion and I thank them for providing the full House with this opportunity.

I have been deeply concerned about this case from the moment of Ibrahim's arrest and detention as a child. As a former Senator, a Deputy from Dublin South West representing Firhouse, and now a Minister, I have been in contact with the family and the legal team who have campaigned tirelessly. The Halawa family has kept Ibrahim's plight as a priority issue diplomatically and politically, not only here within the corridors of Leinster House but also with vigils at the Kildare Street gate and in the media, and I want this House to record and recognise their efforts.

Following the latest legal setback in the case last week, which ended with its 14th adjournment, I spoke again with the family and, despite their desolation at that moment, they were able to tell me that they are engaged with the officials and with the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, that the hard work is continuing and that they are appreciative of the co-operation.

Deputy Catherine Martin said that justice delayed is justice denied. That principle could not apply more in this case. On that basis I am heartened by the confirmation that the Government will support a further application for Ibrahim's release by presidential decree under Rule 140 and, although the delays are disheartening, frustrating and very upsetting, not least for the family who have endured so much-----

After three years, there is more I could say, but time is short.

Suffice to say I look forward to the day I will join the Halawa family in welcoming Ibrahim back to Firhouse together. We should do everything possible to bring that day closer.

I would like to join everybody in the House who is pushing for Ibrahim Halawa's release and congratulate Deputy Catherine Martin for taking this initiative and unifying the House. We have had differences of opinion, but they are only marginal, because we are united by one thing - that is, the need to get Ibrahim out as soon as possible.

It is a horrific story. In Irish terms it is almost unbelievable that someone should be held for three years without trial for simply protesting, as far as we know, at the age of 17. It is alien to us that something like this should happen in the civilised world.

I commend all those who have contributed to the debate. I commend the fact that the Irish Government has consistently taken this case seriously and that representations have been made consistently, so far without success. Some of the suggestions have merit. The idea of sending a full parliamentary delegation from all parties to the Egyptian capital, Cairo, is a good one. Many of us who are speaking in this debate would be happy and willing to be part of that because it would send a clear message to the Egyptian Government that this nation and its parliamentarians are united behind what we regard as a denial of justice for someone who is an innocent citizen.

I call Deputy Brophy. I will allow the Deputy some leeway.

I am delighted to be able to contribute to the debate. I realise time is short but, as a constituency TD, I want to make a simple statement. At 17 years of age we all believe we are adults and that we are strong, but we are still young people at the start of our lives. Something as horrendous as having one's liberty taken at 17 years of age and being kept in prison with no indication of when it will end must be one of the most terrifying experiences a person can endure.

I am very pleased to see the House so united on this issue, and my message is simple. It is what the family has asked for and what every Member here wants. It is that Ibrahim should be let go home to his family, his country and the people who want to see him return here, and that this should be done now. I commend the Minister, the Taoiseach and the Government on all the efforts they put in, but we must achieve the goal and make sure that they let Ibrahim go.

With my colleagues, I welcome members of the Halawa family to Dáil Éireann. They have welcomed me into their home in Ballycullen on a number of occasions to share their concerns about their brother and son, Ibrahim.

Much of what I wanted to say has been said by previous speakers, but the purpose of the motion, in part, is to reassure the Halawa family that this Parliament is serious, that it speaks with one voice and that the officials who are under the direction of Ministers in the Executive elected by this Parliament are serious about the work they carry out.

I hope the Halawa family takes some consolation from the fact that not only is the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade advocating for them, and I believe he does that job earnestly and to the very best of his ability, as do his officials, the family also have two other Cabinet Ministers, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, who will advocate for them at Cabinet.

When I was a councillor with South Dublin County Council, Somaia Halawa and her nephew came to speak. They gave to the 40 councillors an insight into what life is like for Ibrahim. They met with unanimous support.

I have some previous experience of the consular service and the civil servants who work in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I would question some of the Deputies regarding some intemperate comments. Do Deputies think that the Minister and his officials do not know all of those things about regime conditions or the Egyptian political context? I know full well that the officials and the Minister are aware of these issues and they understand that this is the context in which they strive to do their very best for this Irishman. As his teacher, Codie Preston, wrote in a letter to The Irish Times, Ibrahim is an Irish citizen who speaks with a Dublin accent and whose build belies his youth and his sensitive nature. This is the 14th adjournment of the trial and it simply would not be acceptable or allowed to happen in another jurisdiction.

I regard consular officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as some of the great patriots of this State. They are a last line of defence for Irish citizens and the officials need our support and appreciation. I hope the Minister would convey my appreciation to them because I know they will be working tirelessly. Ibrahim is still alive and - without wanting to be dramatic - I wonder to what extent the efforts of our consular service and our officials have contributed to that. However, that is no consolation to the Halawa family.

I support the Minister and understand that, because of the context, there is a certain amount of pulling our punches in the situation if we are to be responsible in this regard. I do not know if the Minister has spoken to our allies in the European Union on an individual nation basis to see what pressure or influence they could bring to bear. In dealing with such a regime - and I want to avoid any intemperate language - I believe the next obvious step would be the speedy dispatch of a parliamentary delegation to Cairo and to inform the Egyptian ambassador in Dublin of the unanimous support expressed by this Parliament, which represents the State, regarding the continued detention of an Irish citizen, which I am sure the Minister will do as a matter of course.

Consider the situation where a parent is at home one evening and receives a telephone call to say that their 17 year old son has been arrested while travelling abroad. He was exercising his right to assembly by attending a peaceful demonstration which was then attacked by state forces and, with a group of almost 400 people, fled in to a local mosque to seek shelter. We know this because Amnesty International observers were part of the group in the mosque and have testified that this is exactly what happened. The parent is then told that their son was injured, through no fault of his own, put into a tiny, grubby cell with nine adults in an adult prison and left there for more than 1,000 days. If that were the Minister's son what would he do? He would move heaven and earth to ensure he was returned home safely. That is what every single Deputy in the Dáil should be doing in the case of Ibrahim Halawa.

There has been an incredible amount of campaign activity in the past three years led by the remarkable Halawa sisters and their family and involving Amnesty International, Reprieve, politicians from all political parties and none and members of the public. All of the people who have brought the campaign to this point need to be commended. However, I believe I speak for many Deputies and those of us who have been involved in the campaign by saying we feel the family's enormous frustration that more than 1,000 days on, we are still here and Ibrahim has not been returned home.

The purpose of today's debate is to pass an all-party and independent motion - and I am not here to criticise anyone - but whatever one's view on the rights or wrongs of the Government's strategy up to now, clearly it has not worked. Upon the 14th postponement of the trial last week a fundamental change took place, the result of which we are seeing now: the cross party motion; the call for an urgent delegation of Deputies or Oireachtas Members to travel to Egypt to see Ibrahim; and, crucially, a call for action by the Government over the coming days and weeks to increase the intensity of pressure on the Egyptian authorities to secure the release of this Irish citizen.

We now have a very clear window of opportunity. It is not simply a matter of supporting the request for a presidential decree. It is a matter of the Minister using absolutely every single means at his diplomatic disposal to ensure the request is successful and that Ibrahim is returned home safely before the next trial date. I certainly believe that is possible.

I acknowledge the very significant work of the consular services in Egypt and the work of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials in Ireland. They have put an extraordinary amount of time into this case. At this stage the Minster for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, and the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, need to do everything in their power and to use every possible avenue of direct influence with their counterparts Minister Shoukry and President el-Sisi to ensure Ibrahim's release.

When Deputies Lahart, Brophy and I were on South Dublin County Council, we had a powerful presentation from Somaia Halawa. On two separate occasions over the past three years there was unanimous support in the council for motions calling for Ibrahim's urgent release. I am delighted to say that finally the Dáil is following suit. However, what happens next and especially the actions of the Minister and the Taoiseach in the coming weeks will determine whether Ibrahim arrives home before September.

I thank all the Deputies who initiated this motion and particularly the Green Party. I thank the Deputies who have campaigned and spoken today. The ball is very clearly in the Minister's court. He has our support if he ups the tempo and increases the intensity of the efforts. If Ibrahim comes home, we will congratulate the Minister for playing a part in that.

I have taken very careful note of the views and concerns expressed in the House today and I assure all Deputies that this case remains the highest consular priority. I will continue to do everything possible to secure the release and return of Ibrahim Halawa and to see him back in Ireland as soon as possible.

Everyone acknowledges that this is a complex consular case but it is in receipt of an unprecedented amount of attention and resources from my Department and from the Taoiseach. Our focus is firmly on the citizen and his case. The key question which guides our approach is what will stand the best chance of making positive progress for this Irish citizen.

It is the Government's proactive approach supported by decades of diplomatic experience and extensive consultation with a number of States which have had citizens in similar but not identical circumstances, and our sustained and firm diplomatic efforts which will provide the best means of achieving the twin goals of protecting Ibrahim Halawa's welfare and securing his release.

The Government's strategy is under continuing review. It has been refined and developed based on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's considerable experience and consultation with other governments, of which there have been many, and on legal advice. There is also regular consultation with the Halawa family, Ibrahim's lawyers in Ireland and in Egypt and non-governmental organisations, NGOs.

In response to Deputy Darragh O'Brien, I confirm that the Government has already supported an application made by Ibrahim Halawa's legal team in 2015 for his return to Ireland under presidential decree 140. In consultation with the family and their legal representatives, the Government intends to again lend its full support and effort to a further request for release under presidential decree 140. We will continue to work in firm support of these efforts.

I have updated the House on the regular contact I have had with my Egyptian counterpart, with other high level figures in Egyptian system and with the Egyptian ambassador here in Dublin. Ambassador Gendi has been very helpful and professional in her engagement and I appreciate the efforts she has made to convey to her authorities in Cairo the extreme concerns of the Government, the Oireachtas and Irish public opinion on this case. On foot of my request, EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, raised this case directly with the Egyptian Foreign Minister. In response to Deputy Catherine Martin's comments, I point out that on two occasions already the Taoiseach has had face-to-face meetings with President el-Sisi. He has also corresponded with the president on this case. In fact, he spoke to him as recently as Monday of this week.

I and my officials, including our ambassador in Cairo, will continue to engage intensively with the Egyptian authorities to underline strongly and clearly our concerns about this case and our desire to see progress towards the release of Ibrahim Halawa. I keep the Government fully updated on developments. I will take further action in consultation with An Taoiseach, as and when appropriate, in line with our key focus in this case of securing the best interests of the citizen. I attach the highest priority to ensuring that Ibrahim Halawa's welfare is addressed. Embassy officials led by our ambassador to Egypt, Damien Cole, visit Ibrahim Halawa on a regular basis in order to monitor his welfare. The most recent visit took place on 3 July.

This is a very difficult time for the Halawa family, as it would be for any family in these circumstances. We liaise closely with the Halawa family and we will continue to work with them to make positive progress towards our shared goal, which is the return home of Ibrahim Halawa.

Perhaps more than many Deputies in this House, I feel a deep sense of frustration that this case is dragging on with such an uncertain timetable. Over the past two years, not a week has passed that I have not been involved in a conversation, a meeting or a debate concerning the plight of Ibrahim Halawa. During moments of acute frustration I remind myself what is the objective here and what are the best means of achieving that objective. It is to get Ibrahim Halawa released, and to achieve it through measured, firm and relentless diplomacy. We all need to stay focused on this objective. I welcome this debate here this afternoon and the contributions of the Deputies.

I acknowledge this is a complex case. There are differing views in this House and we have had them expressed not only today, but during the course of Question Time and on regular occasions during the past two years. My door is always open to any Member of this House who believes he or she can offer constructive advice in regard to achieving our shared objective of returning Ibrahim Halawa home to Ireland to his family.

Question put and agreed to.