Friday 19 April 2019

Tánaiste confirms Government is working to facilitate return of Irish Isil bride Lisa Smith

  • Government is now working to facilitate the return of ISIL bride Lisa Smith (37) and her two year old child back to Ireland
  • Tánaiste stresses Government owes 'a duty of care' to the duo
  • Warns logistics of securing return of former Air Corps recruit to Ireland was 'very complex'
Lisa Smith holding her daughter while speaking to CNN Photo: CNN
Lisa Smith holding her daughter while speaking to CNN Photo: CNN
Homeward bound: Lisa Smith wants to return to Ireland from Syria. Picture by Tom Conachy

Ralph Riegel

TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney has confirmed the Government is now working to facilitate the return of ISIL bride, Lisa Smith (37), and her two year old child back to Ireland as he stressed the Government owes "a duty of care" to the duo.

However, he warned that the logistics of securing the return of the former Air Corps recruit to Ireland was "very complex" given that she was currently in a camp in an effective war zone which is controlled by Kurdish forces.

Ms Smith, who travelled to Syria in 2015 after converting to Islam, has pleaded to be allowed return to Ireland in an emotional interview with US station, CNN.

The Louth woman said she was effectively "living in a prison" in the Syrian camp and now "wants to go home" to Ireland.

Lisa Smith holding her daughter while speaking to CNN Photo: CNN
Lisa Smith holding her daughter while speaking to CNN Photo: CNN

"I know they'd (Ireland) strip me of my passport and I would not be able to travel. I would be watched, kind of, but prison? I don't know. I am already in prison," she said.

In a previous TV interview, Ms Smith - who worked on the Government jet during a decade in the Air Corps - described herself as British and spoke both English and Arabic.

The Tánaiste said the Government is now liaising with her family over how to get her back to Ireland from Syria.

"The Government's position is that we consider her case a consular case. Like all consular cases, we want to look after Irish people and bring them home if they want to come home.

Diplomatic help: Lisa Smith served in the Defence Forces
Diplomatic help: Lisa Smith served in the Defence Forces

"There is a meeting between my Department (Foreign Affairs, the Department of Defence and the Department of Justice to co-ordinate a Government response in relation to how we assist her.

"Of course, there is heightened concern because there is a two year old girl involved in this as well."

The Cork TD said there were a number of complicating factors involved.

"This is an unusual case because of her background in the last number of years. But the Taoiseach and I have made it very clear she is an Irish citizen and she is the responsibility of Ireland.

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
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

"We have a responsibility towards her and, in particular, her daughter. We will try to follow through on that responsibility and find a way to bring her home.

"Part of the problem here is that this is a war zone or at least a former war zone.

Lisa Smith during her days as a member of the Defence Forces
Lisa Smith during her days as a member of the Defence Forces

"It is not that easy to actually get into these places.

"She also does not have the capability to communicate easily from where she is.

"We have not had direct contact from her. She has in the past contacted her family. We are staying in close contact with her family and keeping them informed.

"I spoke to her brother (earlier this month) and have given her family a commitment that we would keep them informed at all times and we will."

He said the Government is considering all consular options.

Innocent: Lisa Smith making her First Communion. Picture: Independent.ie
Innocent: Lisa Smith making her First Communion. Picture: Independent.ie

"This is a complicated case - we deal with a lot of complicated consular cases all over the world. Sometimes it is victims, sometimes it is people who have gotten into trouble.

"But this is a particularly unusual case because it involves a young child and a mother, both of them Irish citizens, in a war zone, in a camp that was linked to partners and children of ISIL fighters. (It is controlled) largely by Kurds so it is more complicated than most consular cases would be to put it mildly.

"But, that being said, we do have a responsibility here as a State both to her and, in particular, we have a duty of care, I would say, to a two year old Irish girl who happens to be in a very vulnerable situation.

"We are taking that seriously."

The International Red Cross has been asked to spearhead the Irish Government’s efforts to return Jihadi bride Lisa Smith from Syria.  

Government officials have made direct contact with the charity, which has a significant presence in the Middle East.

It is understood that Red Cross officials have been consulted in recent days with a view to establishing the potential to secure a safe passage for Ms Smith out of the Syrian camp where she is currently being held with her two-year-old baby.

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 today and will be reviewed again later this week.

Sources have also said that the potential diplomatic issues involved in using the Army Ranger Wing for such a recovery would make it a “highly unlikely” option for the return of Lisa Smith.

The Garda’s counter terrorism and intelligence units have been made aware of the developments, with officers attached to the  CTI (Counter Terrorism International) expected to carry out a deradicilsation process of Ms Smith on her return.  

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