Irishman Richard O’Halloran, who was prevented from leaving China for almost three years, has told of his “day of great happiness and emotion” as he celebrated his long-awaited return home to his family.
Mr O’Halloran, 46, was working for a Dublin-based aircraft leasing firm when it became involved in a legal dispute with Chinese authorities who then blocked him from leaving the country.
After being unable to see his family for nearly three years, the father-of-four is now home in Dublin and reunited with his wife and children as he thanked the “key individuals who were central in helping to arrive at this positive outcome”.
The family took to Twitter to document his homecoming, showing Mr O’Halloran being hugged by his wife Tara, surrounded by his three daughters and one son.
Mr O’Halloran said in a statement: “On my arrival back to Ireland, I am making this statement in response to the overwhelming positive number of messages received by my family and myself, since it became apparent yesterday that my exit ban was lifted.
“This is a day of great happiness and emotion as I rejoin Tara, Ben, Amber, Isabella and Scarlett after three years.
“It is also important that I take this opportunity to thank and to express my sincere appreciation, and that of my family, for the incredible support we have received over the past three years.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said his department had been working on ensuring the safe return of Mr O’Halloran.
The minister travelled to China last year in a bid to secure his release from travel restrictions.
Mr Coveney said he was “pleased” to confirm the restrictions placed on the Irishman have been lifted, enabling him to return home.
Mr O’Halloran described Mr Coveney as a “key figure in reaching a solution” as the minister “invested huge effort over a long period”.
He also thanked wider friends and family for signing petitions, writing letters and staying active on social media, as well as Irish President Michael D Higgins, who wrote to his counterpart in China, and a number of politicians at national and European level who were “so supportive”.
After acknowledging the help of his parents, brother David and colleagues, he praised his children and the “incredible tower of strength” that was his wife.
“This has been an incredible challenge for them too and they endured many dark days,” Mr O’Halloran said.
“But they were always a beacon of light and hope for me and the hundreds of Messenger calls we had helped me to remain positive. Tara was an incredible tower of strength and kept the show on the road.
“I am home with them now and we are all looking forward to getting to know each other again and doing normal, everyday family things.”
Mrs O’Halloran tweeted on Saturday: “Thank you everyone for all your support.
“We are so unbelievably happy to have him back.”
The tweet has more than 9,000 likes.
A statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “This has been a difficult time for Mr O’Halloran and his family.
“The Government has been actively engaged on the matter throughout and is delighted it has reached a successful result.
“The minister wishes to acknowledge the recent co-operation of the Chinese Embassy in Ireland and of the Chinese authorities, and to thank all those who have assisted in achieving this positive outcome.
“The minister wishes Mr O’Halloran a happy reunion with his family.”
Mr Coveney tweeted: “Very good news, after many months of work. Thank you to everyone who assisted.
“I want to wish Richard and his family well following a traumatic three years and hope that their privacy will be respected on his return home.”