Mandy Kelly meets Helen McEntee regarding unlawful retention of minor sons in Egypt

Minister for Justice assures Ms Kelly of ‘Government’s ongoing support ... as she works through the Egyptian authorities to get her children home’

A woman has said she is “hopeful” that diplomatic efforts will see her two young children returned from Egypt after two years and that “no parent should have to grieve their children when they’re alive”.

Mandy Kelly (38), from Dundalk, Co Louth, said her estranged husband, the children’s father, refused to let the boys come home from a family holiday in Cairo in April 2022.

She said she has had no contact with Zayn (5) and Kareem (3), who were born in Ireland, for two years and that they were taken by their Egyptian father.

Egypt is not signed up to the 1980 Hague Convention, which aims to protect children from international abduction by a parent using diplomatic pressure to ensure the prompt return of the child.


Ms Kelly met Minister for Justice Helen McEntee on Thursday, accompanied by her solicitor and a mediator.

Speaking afterwards, she said the Minister was “open” to looking at a potential bilateral agreement or a memorandum of understanding between the two countries that could help with her situation.

“She [Ms McEntee] was of the agreement also that further talks are required and she also agreed to speak with her colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding key issues that were mentioned, in particular the return of my children’s passports.

“I addressed this because we had written to the Department of Foreign Affairs to request them to reach out to my ex-partner to return my children’s passports or to cancel them,” she said, adding that both requests were denied or ignored.

Ms Kelly said she felt this “was incredibly important because my ex-partner can still get up and bring my children anywhere in the world”.

She said that while she has had some “horrific days” over the last two years without her children, she remained “incredibly positive and hopeful” about their return.

“I know my children need me. I know my children’s best interests are going to be served in Ireland, their education, their religious needs and their basic, just maternal family needs, are going to be served in Ireland. So that’s what keeps me going,” she said.

“My youngest son was 16 months old when this occurred and my other son was three. So I’ve missed out on so much of their lives. The Irish authorities know from previous cases that mothers that go through this, once they’re reunited with their children after years upon years, that the damage is already done.”

She said she was “adamant that action is taken” and that even when her children are returned, she hopes to be an advocate to help parents who find themselves in similar “horrific” situations.

“I don’t actually have words to tell you what it’s like living without my children, as in no parent should have to grieve their children when they’re alive.”

In a statement, Ms McEntee said she met Ms Kelly and “heard about her incredibly difficult situation”.

“I expressed my admiration for her resilience,” the Minister said. “I also assured her of the Government’s ongoing support, which of course includes DFA consular assistance, as she works through the Egyptian authorities to get her children home.”

Ms Kelly met Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin last November and he is understood to have advised her to appoint a lawyer in Egypt to engage with the country’s legal system.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times