Call for State to repatriate Lisa Smith in effort to understand radicalisation

Terrorism expert says questions remain how Irish soldier became Islamic extremist

Ireland should bring Islamic State supporter Lisa Smith (pictured) home to study how an Irish soldier can be turned into an Islamic extremist, a leading counter-terrorism expert has said. Photograph: BBC.

Ireland should bring Islamic State supporter Lisa Smith (pictured) home to study how an Irish soldier can be turned into an Islamic extremist, a leading counter-terrorism expert has said. Photograph: BBC.

 

Ireland should bring Islamic State supporter Lisa Smith home to study how an Irish soldier can be turned into an Islamic extremist, a leading counter-terrorism expert has said.

Ian Acheson, who worked on counter-terrorism and counter-extremism policy for the UK government, said it was vital to understand terrorists and people associated with terrorism without condoning their actions.

He said Ireland must avoid falling into the trap of “moral superiority” when addressing violent extremism, “particularly when it comes to the far right”.

“It’s not very helpful to simply stand on the sidelines and pretend we are superior to them if you want to prevent future violence.”

Mr Acheson is speaking on Friday at a conference about the rise of right wing extremism and what this may mean for Ireland. He said he does not believe right wing or Islamic extremism can be stopped.

“What we have to do is contain it and there’s a lot more we can be doing to contain it,” he said.

Mr Acheson, a senior adviser with the US-based Counter-Extremism Project, said society must understand how terrorists are radicalised and motivated.

“We don’t want to in any way, shape or form cede any ground to people who wish to murder for ideological or theological reasons,” he said.

“But we can’t talk to dead terrorists. We can talk to the ones who are alive and in custody. We can learn so much from them. That includes people associated with extremist movements, people like Lisa Smith and others in Syria. ”

Ms Smith, a former member of the Air Corps, is believed to be in the custody of a Syrian militia in the north of the country.

Mr Acheson said repatriating her would be a demonstration of Ireland’s “moral authority” and would show solidarity with the Kurdish people who have borne the brunt of Islamic State aggression.

“And we also need to get them back to understand how someone who served on the Irish government jet can become radicalised like this.”

Dr Owen Worth, of the University of Limerick, will tell Friday’s conference that a reason Ireland is yet to experience far-right extremism on the level seen in other western countries is because for a movement to develop, a central figure must emerge and this has yet to happen.

He also suggests Ireland’s brand of “Celtic nationalism” is more benign and inclusive than the kind of UK nationalism that has driven Brexit.