Politicians welcome release of Emily Hand

Irish-Israeli girl was held captive by Hamas for 50 days

The release at the weekend of Irish-Israeli girl Emily Hand, who was held captive by Hamas for 50 days, ends a “horrific time for all of her family”, President Michael D Higgins said.

In a statement on Sunday Mr Higgins sent his best wishes to “Emily, to her father Thomas and her sister Natali who I have met in recent weeks, and to all those who are close to her after what I know has been an extremely traumatic time”.

“It was,” he said “my great hope that Emily can now, despite all that she has endured, enjoy a happy and fulfilling life after what has been an unimaginable situation for such a young child.

“While we particularly recognise this important moment as an Irish-Israeli child is released, we must also retain a focus on what is now needed – a durable ceasefire, the release of all remaining hostages, and a commitment from all sides to engaging in the task of building what can be an enduring peace.”


The release of Emily to her family had been a priority of the Government in their diplomatic efforts in recent weeks, Mr Higgins said. “I think it is important that this work is recognised.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was a “day of enormous joy and relief” for Emily Hand and her family.

“An innocent child who was lost has now been found and returned, and our country breathes a massive sigh of relief. Our prayers have been answered,” he said.

“A little girl was snatched from her home and held captive for almost seven weeks. She spent her ninth birthday as a hostage. We hope she will soon heal and recover from the traumatic experience in the loving embrace of her family.”

He paid tribute to her family and their campaigning for Emily’s release.

“They travelled across Europe to keep her plight in the public eye. When I met Tom and Natali in Dublin, their pain was etched on their faces, but so was their courage and determination to ensure that Emily would be freed. I shared their grief and was inspired by their example,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said while Emily was now returning to her family, it could not be forgotten that many more hostages remained in captivity in Gaza.

“Their fate is unknown, but we hope that, like Emily, they will also be allowed to return to their homes and their families. We think of all the families suffering in this troubled region, and we redouble our efforts to work for a permanent ceasefire, and for a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he was delighted “a bright and beautiful young girl” had been released and reunited with her family. “After weeks of trauma, this is a precious and deeply moving moment for the Hand family,” he said.

“The people of Ireland have been touched by Emily’s story, her innocence, and the quiet dignity and determination of her father Tom.

“I had the opportunity to meet Tom before travelling to the region, and I was struck by the strength and resilience with which he advocated for his daughter’s release.

“This is a message that I and my colleagues in Government sought to amplify as we engaged internationally, through political, diplomatic and security channels, in a bid to secure Emily’s safe return,” Mr Martin said.

“I want to acknowledge the role played by the US, Qatar, Egypt and others that have been involved in securing the release of the hostages.

“I am conscious today that many more hostages remain in the hands of Hamas. I reiterate my call that all hostages in Gaza should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said: “The trauma and heartbreak that little Emily and her family have been subjected to over the past number of weeks is unimaginable.

“I commend the mediators’ efforts, including the government of Qatar and all other neighbouring states, for the constructive role that they have played in securing the release of Emily and the other hostages, as well as Palestinian women and children who were imprisoned under administrative detention, who are finally reuniting with their loved ones today.

“I reiterate my call that all hostages be released urgently and for an immediate full ceasefire to be in place. Ireland must continue to be a voice for peaceful dialogue on the international stage.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times