Thursday 5 December 2019

Ministers keen to avoid media circus as they place trust in natural course of justice

Back home: Turkish Airlines flight TK1975 landing at Dublin Airport with Isil bride Lisa Smith on board. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Back home: Turkish Airlines flight TK1975 landing at Dublin Airport with Isil bride Lisa Smith on board. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Lisa Smith's arrival back in Ireland comes some nine months after her case first emerged publicly.

Since then, the Government has been co-ordinating how the State should respond to her unique case.

This has been complicated by the fact an entirely innocent young child, an Irish citizen, is caught up in the situation. This has been at the forefront of Government thinking in addition to how to handle another Irish citizen who has made a number of interesting statements about her activities in media interviews.

Bi-weekly meetings have taken place between officials in the departments of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Justice and An Garda Síochána.

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What happens now is largely dependent on how gardaí approach the matter and whether or not they decide to charge the Dundalk native.

Garda Special Branch and military intelligence have been investigating Ms Smith's background and her activities since she became interested in the activities of the terrorist group. Months of painstaking investigating will inform their questioning of Ms Smith in the coming days.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gave a strong indication of the direction of travel.

"In terms of Lisa Smith, gardaí are ready to speak to her and they may be in a position to charge her and if they do then a prosecution may follow. That is all I can really say about that," he said.

But the Government is keen to allow the natural course of justice play out. "An Garda Síochána and the Director of Public Prosecutions are responsible for criminal investigations based on facts and evidence in all cases and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on those matters," said Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Ministers are also very keen to avoid a media circus around the case.

Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick, who has been a spokesman for the family, said Ms Smith will do interviews when she comes home, noting a request from RTÉ's 'Late Late Show'. There is an exceptionally dim view taken of this, with Mr Flanagan in particular privately arguing strongly against Ms Smith being interviewed by Ryan Tubridy.

The concerns of the Islamic community about Ms Smith choosing to practise her faith in Ireland have been raised.

Shaykh Dr Umar al-Qadri, chairman of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, has previously said Ms Smith would not be welcome in Irish mosques or Islamic community centres if she returned.

Irish Independent

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