Retired Cork County Council engineer Mahmoud Shaladan’s wife Abla is trapped in Gaza.

Ex-council worker fears for wife in Gaza

A retired Cork County Council engineer has said he does not know whether his wife, who is trapped in Gaza, is alive or dead.

Irish citizen Mahmoud Shaladan, a Palestinian born in Gaza, is desperately trying to make contact with his wife Abla who he has not heard from for several weeks.

Speaking to the Cork Independent, Mr Shaladan, who recently retired from his role at Cork County Council, said his wife is in the northern part of Gaza which has been cut off from the south and has no means of communication with the outside world.

Mr Shaladan had planned to retire to Gaza but when the violence began on 7 October, he was forced to flee to Cairo where he waited for a number of weeks in hope of a ceasefire.

Now back in Cork, Mr Shaladan is hoping that the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs might grant his wife a visa to come to Ireland. He said if she can escape Gaza to Cairo where there is an Irish embassy, she would be safe.

Mr Shaladan, who also has a sister in Gaza, said he has had to take medication in order to stay calm as he awaits news from his wife.

“You just have to bear it and look after your health, otherwise it won't do me any good,” he told the Cork Independent.

“We just have to hope and keep our fingers crossed that there will be a humanitarian ceasefire at least, that's what we are hoping for, just to find out whether her and her family are still alive.

“I hope that the foreign affairs office here helps me to get her name listed somehow so that she can leave to Cairo. She can catch a flight to Dublin or I can go to Cairo to collect her,” he added.

Mr Shaladan, who were married his wife in 2022, had originally hoped that Abla could come and live for a time in Ireland as Mr Shaladan neared the end of his career with Cork County Council, but her application for a visa was denied.

“I had an application put through straight after I got married in March 2022 through the normal emigration to see if she can come here while I'm working, she might be persuaded to stay in Ireland. Unfortunately it wasn't agreed,” he explained.

Mr Shaladan appealed the decision in September but says he fears it could take months for the Department of Foreign Affairs to process it.

He continued: “I want them to speed up looking at the appeal and hopefully they will give her a visa to collect at the Irish Embassy in Cairo. I've given them everything they need, bank statements, my ability to look after her, finance, I have accommodation here.”