Seanad debates

Tuesday, 5 March 2024

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


1:00 pm

Photo of John McGahonJohn McGahon (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

Before I discuss an issue, with the permission of the Leas-Chathaoirleach I would like to propose an amendment to the Order of Business today. I propose that No. 14 be taken before No. 1.

Yesterday, I met Mandy Kelly in my home town of Dundalk. I am conscious that I must make sure I temper my remarks with due process. I preface my remarks my noting I am keenly aware that this is a very complex issue. Mandy is someone we are all aware of through the media because her two children, Zayn and Kareem, who are Irish citizens, have been in Egypt since 2022. They went there on a family holiday with their mother. There is a fairly substantial custody battle, for want of a better word, involving two Irish citizens in Egypt who are now aged five and three. The Departments of Foreign Affairs and Justice are very well aware of this case. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, met Mandy before Christmas. The consular assistance provided to Mandy in Egypt when this occurred was very helpful and made an extraordinarily difficult situation easier. Mandy has obtained a High Court ruling to say that her two children, who are Irish citizens, should be returned to her as soon as possible. However, the advice at this point is for Mandy to enter the Egyptian court system to have her two sons returned to Ireland. That is not a feasible legal pathway.I call for a debate about how stronger diplomatic relations can be fostered with countries, which are outside the EU, where there are instances of children staying in a country in which they do not belong or with which they do not have a connection and to which they have been taken on a family holiday with return flights booked. I will not get into the details of the terminology as I am conscientious with regard to the words I use in this House but, to be very blunt about it, these are two Irish children and citizens. They have no connection to Egypt. They were born in Ireland and went to school in Ireland and have been in Egypt since 2022. Their mother has had no contact with them whatsoever. I implore the Irish Government, and especially the Minister, Deputy Micheál Martin, to continue doing the important work he is doing diplomatically and behind the scenes to try to put as much pressure as possible on the Egyptian Government to get these two Irish citizens home as soon as possible.


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