Thursday 17 October 2019

'Threat' from Isil bride to be assessed on return home

Lisa Smith: in Syrian camp. Picture: Tom Conachy
Lisa Smith: in Syrian camp. Picture: Tom Conachy
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 yesterday confirmed details of the efforts to get the Louth woman and her two-year-old child out of Syria, as first reported by the Irish Independent.

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

In the Dáil, Mr Varadkar said efforts were being "stepped up" to ensure the pair were treated humanely.

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-old 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.

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 is now upping its efforts to repatriate her on foot of a brief interview aired on CNN in recent days.

Irish Independent

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