Tusla involved in welfare plans for Lisa Smith’s child - Taoiseach

Speculation Ms Smith and daughter may be flown back to Ireland in the coming days

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said he has presented plans to Government about how to handle Lisa Smith’s repatriation. File photograph: BBC/Screengrab

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said he has presented plans to Government about how to handle Lisa Smith’s repatriation. File photograph: BBC/Screengrab

 

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. is involved in planning for the future care of the two-year-old child of Islamic State supporter Lisa Smith once the two return to Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

“It is a tricky situation. Ultimately the child is an Irish citizen and deserves to be protected in my view. Ultimately we need to protect our citizens,” Mr Varadkar told reporters at a graduation ceremony in Templemore for 197 new gardaí.

Ms Smith (38), a former Irish Air Corps member who served on the Government jet, was in the Ain Issa displacement camp in north east Syria, along with other family members of Islamic State fighters, until it was bombed by Turkish warplanes in October. She fled north on foot until she was picked up by a Turkish-backed militia.

Mr Varadkar said there was a need to ensure the welfare of Ms Smith’s daughter is protected and that Tusla is involved in plans along with the Garda and Defence Forces. “Of course there are relatives that are in contact and Tusla are aware that situation may arise.”

Ms Smith (38) is also an Irish citizen and has the right to return home should she wish, the Taoiseach added.

It is understood the Dundalk woman’s family members have expressed a willingness to care for her child in the event of her possible detention upon arrival in Ireland. However, any final decision would rest with Tusla.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said a garda investigation into Ms Smith’s activities while with the terrorist group in Syria is continuing. “If she does return home the gardaí will want to talk to her.”

There is speculation Ms Smith and daughter may be flown back to Ireland in the coming days but Irish officials have refused to confirm this. She is currently awaiting deportation in Turkey which has said it intends to send dozens of Islamic State supporters caught in northern Syria back to their home countries.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said he has presented plans to Government about how to handle Ms Smiths repatriation and he is “content” that these are suitable and proportionate.

The commissioner said he does not think Ireland requires a deradicalisation programme for suspected terrorists returning from war zones because of the “very small” numbers involved. Instead the authorities can look at individuals “in a bespoke manner” based on the potential threat they pose to the State.

“We are managing them on a bespoke fashion proportionate to what we think the threat is.”