There is now "a clear sense" the trial of Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa is underway in Egypt, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said.
Mr Halawa is facing trial with 493 other defendants for taking part in protests against the former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in August 2013.
The mass trial appeared to be making some progress in January, when at one hearing 10 witnesses were called to give evidence.
Mr Flanagan said 11 witnesses testified before the court on Wednesday and over 30 witnesses have appeared to date. However, proceedings were adjourned for the 21st time.
“I welcome the progress made today in the case,” said Mr Flanagan. “My officials were in court today, as they have been on every occasion that Ibrahim Halawa’s case before the court and I received an update from Egypt after the case was adjourned.
“Following a frustrating and unacceptably long delay, there is now a clear sense that a trial is underway. This is important due to the commitment by President El Sisi to assist when the case concludes.”
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has said he will intervene to ensure Mr Halawa is released and returned to the Republic when his trial concludes.
Mr Flanagan also said lawyers for Mr Halawa requested his release on medical grounds and that the Judge undertook to consider that application.
“Last week the Government took the unprecedented step of deploying a doctor to Egypt to meet with Ibrahim Halawa,” he said.
“He recommended that Ibrahim Halawa be released to facilitate further specialist medical assessments. Following that report, the Taoiseach again wrote to President El Sisi, again appealing for Ibrahim Halawa’s release, stressing the Irish Government’s humanitarian and medical concerns.”
Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Flanagan appealed, “in the strongest possible terms’’, not to pursue a reported hunger strike and to protect his health in every way possible.
“I also urge all parties who are in contact with him, or who have influence with him, to dissuade him from any actions that would be detrimental to his health,’’ he added.
Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien said some of the comments made from time to time on the issue caused more damage than good to Mr Halawa’s case.
“My concern, and the concern of all of us in the House, should be to get Ibrahim home,’’ he added.
Solidarity TD Brid Smith said there was a history of hunger strikes in Ireland going back to before the fight for independence.
“Nobody goes on hunger strike unless they are utterly driven to it by frustration and left with no other choices, and we know this,’’ she added.
“That is why this young man is gone on hunger strike.’’
She said for close on four years Ireland had been nice and polite to Egypt with no result.
Ms Smith added she had every right to raise the influence of economic issues on political decisions.
She claimed it was a political decision to be nice to the Egyptian government instead of telling them, like the Australian government did, that Ireland would not tolerate what was happening to Mr Halawa.
The trial has been rescheduled for April 26th.