No choice about allowing Lisa Smith back to Ireland, expert says
Irish woman who left for Syria five years ago wants to return to Ireland
Ireland has “no choice” about allowing the return to Ireland of Lisa Smith, an Irish woman and Islamic State supporter, according to retired lieutenant and former deputy director of military intelligence Michael Murphy.
Ms Smith (37) from Dundalk, Co Louth left for Syria about five years ago, after stepping down from the Air Corps where she served as a flight attendant on the Government jet at the rank of corporal.
Mr Murphy was interviewed by RTÉ’s Morning Ireland after Ms Smith told the Irish Mail on Sunday newspaper she had not taken part in military activities while in Syria. She is in the Al-Hawl refugee camp which houses large numbers of foreign-born supporters of Islamic State, also known as Isis.
“We have no choice about allowing Lisa Smith back into this country. She found her way there, I’m sure she can find her way back here. Where is her passport? She never said what happened to her passport,” Mr Murphy said.
“As far as I believe, when you went to an Isis territory, you handed over your passport. You took out citizenship of the caliphate. Did she hand over citizenship to the caliphate? There are a lot of questions here.”
Mr Murphy agreed that according to Irish law Ms Smith had not done anything wrong. He said the Government should have made it illegal, as per a European directive in 2017, to travel to Islamic State-controlled territory.
“When the Government says it is going to carry out a threat assessment, a threat assessment should be carried out before anybody comes back into this country, not afterwards - that is a bit late,” he said.
“One of the things she said was she ran with the crowd. Who are the crowd? Where was that crowd? Are there other people in Ireland that left at the same time or did she leave individually at that time?” he said.
Last month, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said Ireland had a responsibility to both Ms Smith and her two-year-old daughter.
Mr Coveney said officials from his Department were meeting with officials from the Departments of Defence and Justice to co-ordinate a response in relation to how the State might assist Ms Smith.
“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 and we are very conscious of that,” he said at the end of March.
“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 and it is not that easy to actually get into these places.”
Ms Smith told the Irish Mail on Sunday she did not take part in training with Islamic State. She said while in Syria she married a British man named Sajid Aslam, who she believes was killed several months ago.
Ms Smith said she missed Ireland.
“For me, I want to go back to my country,” she told the newspaper. “[As] for why? Obviously the people are good, you know, and they treat you right and they smile at you, you know.
“You walk down the streets of Dublin, or you walk down the streets of anywhere in Ireland, they’ll say, ‘How are you?’ Or an old man will get up and let you sit down or sit down and talk to you. People generally have good manners.”
Ms Smith said she never owned or handled a gun while in Syria and that she did not pass on any military expertise.
“No, I didn’t do anything, I never even owned a rifle when I was in [Islamic State], I didn’t even own a gun. My husband many times said to me, you want me to buy you one? I said no. He said it’s just for self-defence or, I said I don’t want, I don’t want.”
“I think anyone that knows me, you know in the Army or outside the Army or anywhere in my life, will know that, they know me, that I wouldn’t pick up the weapon and fight and stuff like that. I didn’t do it, I didn’t own a rifle, I didn’t teach them anything.”
She said she attended one military training class being taught by a woman “just to see” what she was teaching.
“I didn’t fight in Baghouz, I just took me and my child and got out of there all the time.”
She said she does not believe in suicide attacks and was not “out to kill anyone”.
Ms Smith also told the Irish Mail on Sunday she was easily led and would never travel to such a place again.
“My biggest mistake is not having patience and seeing with my eyes to what was going to happen.
“I just ran, ran with the crowd like I always do. Ask my mum, I run with the crowd all the time. And that’s what I did. I didn’t listen to anyone, I didn’t take any advice, I just ran. And I wish I didn’t. I wish I had just took my time.”