Sunday 21 April 2019

Lisa Smith can't become a threat to life and limb in Ireland - Varadkar

Lisa Smith. Picture: Tom Conachy
Lisa Smith. Picture: Tom Conachy
Converted: Co Louth woman Lisa Smith, who is being held in Syria on suspicion of being a member of Isil
Lisa Smith during her days as a member of the Defence Forces
Lisa Smith holding her daughter while speaking to CNN Photo: CNN
Mother and daughter: Lisa Smith with her two-year old daughter Ruqayya in Syria
Leo Varadkar said Lisa Smith would face an interrogation. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

ASSESSMENTS will be done to ensure Isil bride Lisa Smith “doesn’t become a threat to life and limb here in Ireland” when she returns home, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The Taoiseach today confirmed details of the efforts to get the Louth woman and her two-year-old child out of Syria, as first reported by Independent.ie.

Ms Smith’s case was discussed by ministers at Cabinet today. Much emphasis was put on the welfare of her daughter, Ruqayya, who is also living in a camp with extremely poor conditions.

In the Dáil, Mr Varadkar said efforts are being “stepped up” to ensure the pair are treated humanly.

Mother and daughter: Lisa Smith with her two-year old daughter Ruqayya in Syria
Mother and daughter: Lisa Smith with her two-year old daughter Ruqayya in Syria

No direct contact has been made between Irish officials and Ms Smith to date.

But the Taoiseach said: “As is the case with all Irish citizens they will be permitted to re-enter the State should they try to do so.”

He ruled out using the Government Jet to fly her home from the Middle East, saying it is not capable of flying that far.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said Ms Smith had “obviously made very poor choices”.

But he added: “There’s a two year girl, an Irish citizen, who deserves a future.”

Aid workers in the Middle East have been directed to help secure her release from a camp where she lives in a tent with other war widows.

Converted: Co Louth woman Lisa Smith, who is being held in Syria on suspicion of being a member of Isil
Converted: Co Louth woman Lisa Smith, who is being held in Syria on suspicion of being a member of Isil

A source in the region who has met Ms Smith said she is aware her case has created publicity in Ireland but does not know the nature of the debate.

“They are cut off from the world in there. There is no access to news,” the source said. “Lisa wants to go back home. It’s now all about her little girl.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs has decided not to send officials into the region as is normal practice when Irish citizens find themselves in trouble abroad as Syria is deemed too volatile for diplomats.

However, efforts are being made behind the scenes to get help from aid workers.

It is understood Red Cross officials have been consulted with a view to establishing the potential to secure a safe passage for Ms Smith.

Sources have said utilising the capabilities and connections of the Red Cross is currently among the main options at the Government’s disposal.

The permutations were discussed at a senior-level meeting yesterday and will be reviewed again later this week. There are also ongoing discussions between Irish officials and a number of Middle Eastern governments. To date, diplomats have been trying to confirm that Ms Smith wants to return to Ireland.

The Government has not had direct contact with her but are now upping their efforts to repatriate her on foot of a brief interview aired on CNN in recent days. The ex-army officer told correspondent Jomana Karadsheh Scott she now “wants to go home” and is “living in a prison”.

Ms Smith, who once worked on the Government Jet, left Ireland in 2015 and married an Isil sympathiser who was killed in recent months.

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