Islamic scholar questions State efforts to repatriate Lisa Smith

Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council chair says involvement of Defence Forces is ‘extraordinary’

Lisa Smith left Ireland several years ago, travelling first to Tunisia and then to Syria where she joined up with Islamic State. File photograph: BBC/Screengrab

Lisa Smith left Ireland several years ago, travelling first to Tunisia and then to Syria where she joined up with Islamic State. File photograph: BBC/Screengrab

 

The chairperson of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council has questioned why so much effort is being made by the State to repatriate Irish woman Lisa Smith and her child.

Ms Smith (38) left Ireland several years ago, travelling first to Tunisia and then to Syria where she joined up with the terrorist group and married one of its fighters, a man who was later killed.

Following the loss of most of Islamic State’s territory, Ms Smith was detained in a refugee camp in north east Syria. She fled the camp last month with her daughter and walked north before being picked up by a Turkish-backed militia.

It is understood Ms Smith is currently being held by members of the militia close to Syria’s border with Turkey.

On Monday morning, Shayk Dr Umar Al-Qadri told the Today with Sean O’Rourke programme that while “undoubtedly” the Irish Government has a duty to provide consular care, he questioned the “level of efforts” for a member of Islamic State.

“I find it quite shocking that our Government is putting so much effort to bring back that particular individual,” he said.

“It was extraordinary to include the Defence Forces.”

A delegation from the Department of Foreign Affairs has been deployed to the border area of Turkey to facilitate the return of Ms Smith and her daughter to Ireland where she may face charges for aiding a terrorist group.

Last month the Garda confirmed it was investigating the woman on suspicion of breaching anti-terror legislation.

Dr Al-Qadri said he was concerned that Ms Smith could still be a threat to Irish society and he asked if any plans had been made for her to be deradicalised.

If she was willing to share intelligence then that was another issue, he said.

It is understood that a small number of Defence Forces personnel are assisting in an ongoing operation that could see Ms Smith and her child return to Ireland. Military personnel attached to the Ranger Wing of the army have been in the area along the Turkish Syrian border for some time. They are working in support of the Department of Foreign Affairs initiative.

Security expert Tom Clonan told the same show that this was an unusual case and that Ms Smith was potentially a security risk. She would be “of considerable interest” to both the Irish and UK authorities, he said, because she had been housed with other English speakers who had joined Islamic State.

There was also the issue of whether Ms Smith was prepared to return to Ireland. If she did not then she was essentially stateless. “Her options are fairly stark,” said Mr Clonan.