President Michael D Higgins has welcomed the acquittal of Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa on all charges relating to mass protests in Cairo four years ago.

In a statement, he said: "As President of Ireland I welcome the news that Ibrahim Halawa and his three sisters have today been acquitted of all charges brought against him, and them, in what has been a prolonged, distressing and draining experience.

"Today's decision brings to an end a long ordeal that Ibrahim, his family, friends and legal team have been put through.

"I am sure Ibrahim's family are looking forward to the moment that Ibrahim will return to his home and loved ones.

"I am sure they will have been sustained by the support of all those who have campaigned for his release over the last four years.

"It is appropriate, also, to acknowledge at this time the important efforts of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the staff at Ireland's embassy in Cairo."

Profile: Ibrahim Halawa

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, meanwhile, said: "I wholeheartedly welcome this conclusion to what has been an extraordinarily protracted case.

"Now that Ibrahim has been cleared of all charges, I expect he will be released as soon as possible and can return home to his family. The Government will facilitate his return home at the earliest opportunity.

"I want to acknowledge the consular and diplomatic work undertaken on Ibrahim's behalf by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Irish Embassy in Cairo throughout this lengthy process. Following today's verdict, they will continue to assist Ibrahim and his family to ensure he gets home as soon as possible."

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney welcomed the acquittal, and said Mr Halawa’s name has been cleared and his innocence confirmed.

He added: "We are conscious that there will be some practical procedures and formalities to be gone through before Ibrahim will be able to fly back to Dublin, but my department and our embassy team will be assisting and supporting Ibrahim and his family to seek to ensure he gets home as soon as possible."

The Minister for Children has described as extraordinary the news that Mr Halawa has been acquitted, saying the day belongs to his family. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Katherine Zappone said "they are such an inspiring family and it has been such a privilege to walk along side them until this day. 

Minister Zappone said it was fair of the family to have had questions about whether the Government was "doing the right thing", saying the plan to get Ibrahim home is "being worked on".

She said there are some administrative and legal issues to be dealt with, but that the acquittal will assist in the implementation of the plan. 

Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin also welcomed the news, saying he "looks forward now to the return of his family at the earliest possible opportunity".

He said he is "genuinely delighted for him and his family".

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said: "I welcome the news that Ibrahim Halawa has been acquitted.

"It is now imperative that the Egyptian government guarantees his safe return to Ireland as soon as possible.

"Ibrahim has spent four years in a jail far from his home and family. His incarceration represents a violation of his basic human rights.

"His physical and mental health suffered greatly as result of his imprisonment. His treatment by the Egyptian authorities was an affront to human decency."

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said: "I am delighted to hear news from Cairo today that Ibrahim Halawa and his sisters have been acquitted of all charges against them.

"Ibrahim was first arrested as a 17-year-old and has been spent the past four years in prison, while his trial was postponed more than 20 times.

"Having travelled with an Oireachtas delegation as part of Irish efforts to secure his release at the start of this year, I can only imagine the relief and joy Ibrahim must today be feeling today at this verdict.

"I am also really pleased for Ibrahim's family, who have been fighting tirelessly on his behalf since 2013, and I'm sure they are looking forward to what we hope is a speedy homecoming."

The Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland welcomed the acquittal and thanked the Taoiseach and "a wide coalition of supporters for pushing for his release". 

ICCI spokesman Ali Selim said it is "great news that he'll be coming back to Ireland". 

He said that because Mr Halawa was only 17 years old when he was arrested, his peers have already embarked on their careers.

"Hopefully Ibrahim will be able to catch up with them," Dr Selim told RTÉ News.

"I'm really grateful to the Government for making great efforts in this case," Dr Selim said, singling out Mr Varadkar for his support. He also thanked TDs and senators for theirs.