Wednesday 26 June 2019

'The compassionate thing to do' - Isil suspect Lisa Smith will be allowed return home, Taoiseach confirms

  • 'Going to Syria is not a crime' - Varadkar says
  • Letting her home is the 'compassionate thing' to do
  • Both Lisa and her child will have the right to return home
Lisa Smith
Lisa Smith
Lisa Smith pictured living in Dundalk in 2011. Photo: Tom Conachy/Independent.ie
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

THE Irishwoman detained in Syria on suspicion of Isis membership will be allowed to return because it is the “compassionate thing” to do, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar has moved to assure the public that a full security assessment will take place before Lisa Smith is allowed back into the country.

But he said as an Irish citizen, she will not be left to fend for herself in one of the world’s most war torn regions.

Independent.ie broke the extraordinary story of Ms Smith last Friday, revealing how she was a member of the Irish Defence Forces before converting to Islam and emigrating to Syria.

Lisa Smith (37), seen third from the right, who served in the Irish Air Corps pictured with the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern whom she served while working on the Government jet. Picture: Collins
Lisa Smith (37), seen third from the right, who served in the Irish Air Corps pictured with the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern whom she served while working on the Government jet. Picture: Collins

Following the death of her husband, whom she met abroad, the 37-year-old now wants to return to Ireland with her two –year-old child.

Mr Varadkar said today that the case would have to be treated on its own merits but it is the policy of the Irish government not to revoke citizenship without good reason.

“Going to Syria or going to live in what was called Islamic State is not in itself an offence or a crime. So we will need to carry out an investigation.

“I know the authorities there will want to interrogate her to see if she has been involved in any crimes there. But it’s very possible that wasn’t a combatant,” the Taoiseach said.

Irish officials are in contact with US authorities who, along with Kurdish forces, are believed to be holding Ms Smith in northern Syria.

Syrian authorities are expected to carry out a security assessment to see if they will seek to prosecute the Dundalk native for Isis membership.

Ms Smith gives an interview to ITV in Syria this week. Picture: Independent.ie
Ms Smith gives an interview to ITV in Syria this week. Picture: Independent.ie
Videograb captured by an ITV cameraman of a woman believed to be Lisa Smith giving water to a young child in a camp in Syria

“But ultimately this is an Irish citizen and we don’t believe that removing an Irish citizen’s citizenship from her or her family, rendering them stateless, would be either the right or compassionate thing to do,” Mr Varadkar said.

“As an Irish citizen, she will have the right to return to Ireland as will her child. But as an Irish citizen, it’s not just as simple as coming here and proceeding as if nothing had happened.”

Asked by Independent.ie whether there is a legal basis for prosecuting Ms Smith here, the Taoiseach said the first step is for authorities in Syria to carry out an interrogation.

“There may need to be  a prosecution there. And we’ll make sure that if she returns to Ireland, she isn’t a threat to anybody here either,” he said.

Ms Smith joined the Defence Forces in 2001. At one point served in the Air Corps, a role which saw her work as a flight attendant on the Government jet. This brought her in close contact with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who has said she should be allowed home.

Friends of Ms Smith have come out to condemn her actions, saying they no longer recognise the woman they knew years ago.

Carol Duffy, who helped her convert to Islam nine years ago, said "people like Lisa ruin it for the rest of us".

"This is not real Islam," she told RTÉ's Liveline.

Describing the Lisa she knew, Ms Duffy said she "was a really nice girl, very funny, very approachable."

"The fact she's even on TV wearing a full face veil, she would have been opposed to it at home. If she didn't wear that over there, they'd kill her too. I think what has happened to Lisa is a level of brainwashing we'll never be able to comprehend.

"If you ever notice anyone who's being interviewed about ISIS, they are the most uneducated about Islam. They are after this great Utopian Islamic life.

"I think she's very vulnerable and being very naive. She's an intelligent woman but they don't tap into intelligence, they tap into vulnerability. She came across as being incredibly naive. She has always been naive. She is the type of person who if you tell her something she believes it.

"I don't believe she was sympathising with them, I believe she was looking for some ideal life."

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