The release of the Irishman Ibrahim Halawa has been both wonderful to watch and a little disturbing.
It has been wonderful to see his unjust and cruel imprisonment come to an end.
It has been wonderful to watch his arrival back in Dublin and see, despite what he’d been through, what a truly impressive Irishman he continues to be.
As the Children’s Minister, Katherine Zappone, commented: “He and his family are extraordinary, they are inspiring us as a Government and I think also the country.”
If the illegal and abhorrent treatment of this young man has had any bright side it is that it has shown us a family and a young man, learned and cultured and articulate, that makes us all a little bit prouder to be Irish.
The disturbing element has always been swirling around this too though and it is still there. Even now there are Irish people who are suspicious of this joyous occasion.
By this stage we’ve all heard of the phenomenon of fake news, even though we might not have been quite sure what it meant.
Well fake news seems to exist at a level that we are all aware of, in that it is little more than unsubstantiated gossip that is given legs by being repeated enough.
We’ve all come across this. We’ve all heard the story in a workplace about so and so saying something about another so and so.
And we’ve all realised after a while that this was merely a suggestion someone came up with that was then repeated and was a little further on being spoken of as fact.
I think they used to call it Chinese Whispers. Except this is Chinese Whispers with a nasty twist and is played out mainly on the internet and on Facebook.
Having listened to various people talking about Ibrahim Halawa over the last few days it is quite clear that a lot of people get their main news sources not from reliable, verified news outlets but from Facebook or various websites.
And much like that bloke in the pub who you try to avoid because his comment on most things is laced with spite or racism or fully formed ignorance, well, he’s not in the pub anymore because he’s found his natural home on the comments section and on his own bilious Facebook page.
I was truly taken aback by the amount of people who responded to Ibrahim Halawa’s release by intimating there was far more going on with this case than any one of us thought.
That he was not an innocent lad from Dublin who’d been imprisoned at 17 without cause.
I was amazed at the amount of people who appeared to possess knowledge of Egyptian politics and the Egyptian legal system that RTE, for instance, didn’t have.
They even came out with that great nugget of the I’m-not-racist-but that Ibrahim Halawa by virtue of his Egyptian Muslim family was not even Irish.
For Ibrahim Halawa being born in the Coombe Hospital in Dublin was still not enough.
When it comes to those who get their news and opinions from Facebook and the angry comments section of a hundred different websites, the truth isn’t something you need. It just gets in the way.
Ibrahim Halawa himself had this to say.
“This is a moment I’ve waited for for four years. A free man. I have left a lot of cellmates behind. There’s a lot of innocent people behind bars around the world. I feel hurt but I feel happy, obviously, reunited and back home.”
So he came home this young Irishman, Ibrahim Halawa. He walked out with dignity and spoke with eloquence and he made us all think that if we have Irishmen like that as part of our future then we can all look forward to the future.
As for those dwelling in the false representation of Facebook pages, or taking on board the bile and spite of internet pages, well, their ignorance is their loss.
It really seems for so many of those people that having white skin and being born in Ireland is the only thing they are ever going to achieve.
I can’t help thinking that, despite the horrors he’s been through, that the Irishman Ibrahim Halawa is going to achieve a lot more.