Belfast Telegraph

Plans in place to care for child of IS member on return to Ireland

Lisa Smith, a former soldier, went to live in Syria in 2015 after converting to Islam.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, centre, with Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, left, and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, centre, with Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, left, and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

Irish authorities have put plans in place to care for the child of a former soldier who joined Islamic State when she and the toddler return to Ireland.

Lisa Smith went to live in IS-controlled Syria in 2015 after converting to Islam.

The 38-year-old was previously detained in a refugee camp in Syria with her two-year-old daughter.

The former member of the Defence Forces is expected to return home to Ireland in the coming weeks.

As an Irish citizen she is free to return home to Ireland. But if she does return home, the gardai are going to want to talk to her. We need to ensure that the child's welfare is protected Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that while he could not disclose much about the case, he is satisfied plans are in place involving the gardai, Defence Forces and Tusla.

He said: “It is a tricky situation and ultimately the child is an Irish citizen and deserves to be protected in my view, ultimately we seek to protect our citizens.

“Obviously as regards to Lisa Smith, that’s a slightly different situation – but she is an Irish citizen and it wouldn’t be fair to expect the Turkish authorities to hold her indefinitely.

“So, as an Irish citizen she is free to return home to Ireland. But if she does return home, the gardai are going to want to talk to her.

“We need to ensure that the child’s welfare is protected.”

Speaking at the Garda Training College in Templemore, Mr Varadkar added: “Of course there are relatives who are in contact, but also Tusla are aware that the situation may arise.”

Ms Smith, from Co Louth, said the father of her child was a suspected member of IS who died last year.

She has left the Syrian camp where she has lived for a number of years to begin her journey home, and is being assisted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Defence Forces.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said: “There is a garda investigation under way and that of course will continue.”

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said the gardai have specific responsibilities in regards to Ms Smith, but he would not comment further.

Asked whether he is satisfied with the plans put in place by the gardai, Mr Harris said: “Yes I am and I would have presented those plans so I am content with what we are putting forward.

“I think we will have a suitable and proportionate response.”

Asked about the possibility of a de-radicalisation programme for people coming to Ireland from conflict zones, Mr Harris said the country is not facing the same problems as other European nations.

“We can look at this in a bespoke manner as we are doing,” he added.

“People should be reassured that constantly we’re addressing threats to the State and part of that is returning individuals and how we manage those.

“A specific programme, as we may see in some of our neighbouring European states, we just don’t have the same demands upon us, but we are managing them in a bespoke fashion proportionate to what we think the threat is and proportionate to what we think is appropriate in circumstances.

“This is a matter for ourselves in terms of our security function and it would be wrong for me to go into all of that, but people should be reassured that we are constantly on our guard in terms of the security the State and that includes those returning from foreign states.”

PA

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