Defence Forces not sent to extract Irish Isis supporter Lisa Smith – Coveney

Tánaiste says two-year-old child is ‘primary concern’ in talks with Turkish authorities

Simon Coveney told the Dáil that military personnel “are providing an important support role, both from a security perspective but also a communications perspective” to Ireland’s embassy team in the Turkish capital Ankara. Photograph:  Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Simon Coveney told the Dáil that military personnel “are providing an important support role, both from a security perspective but also a communications perspective” to Ireland’s embassy team in the Turkish capital Ankara. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has rejected reports that Defence Forces personnel had been sent to Turkey to extract Irish Islamic State supporter Lisa Smith.

He said “that is not the case and was never the case”.

Mr Coveney told the Dáil that military personnel “are providing an important support role, both from a security perspective but also a communications perspective” to Ireland’s embassy team in the Turkish capital Ankara.

But he said there were only two people involved in conversations with Turkish authorities. . “One is a very young child in a very vulnerable situation. And she is my primary concern here.” He said the two-year-old was in his opinion an Irish citizen and they had an obligation to protect her.

Mr Coveney told Fianna Fail spokesman on European affairs Sean Haughey that a lot of what had been said about the case was “speculative”.

Defence Forces personnel were sent to Turkey because there is an “ongoing conversation” between the Irish embassy and the Turkish military sense to have military personnel speaking to military personnel”.

Cross-department questions

That was not unusual because Defence Forces personnel had also supplemented embassy teams in other parts of the world, he stressed.

“Some people were suggesting that we were sending over Defence Force personnel to extract Lisa Smith from north east Syria that is not the case and was never the case,” he insisted.

Mr Haughey asked if Ms Smith was a “person of interest” to An Garda Síochána and if she was to be given travel documents and identity papers.

He also asked if there were other radicalised Irish people to be repatriated.

Confirming that there were only two Irish people involved the Tánaiste said there were “all sorts of questions” about the role of An Garda “if and when Lisa Smith comes home”.

They were questions “we have to deal with comprehensively across Government in multiple different government departments in particular the Department of Justice, and in my department”.

The two departments were working close to “make sure that we do what is appropriate here”.

But he added that “first and foremost, we need to continue to talk to the Turkish authorities to get the job done”.