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'I don't believe Irish citizens go there on their holidays': Flanagan says State will work to bring Lisa Smith back from Syria

It emerged on Friday that the former Defence Forces member was being held in Syria.

Image: RTÉ

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Charlie Flanagan has said that the State will make “every effort” to bring Irish woman Lisa Smith – who has reportedly been detained in Syria – back home. 

On Friday night, it emerged that Smith was held in northern Syria early this week and the Irish government has been contacted and is aware of the case.

So far, there has been no official confirmation of her identity, but it is understood she became radicalised and it is alleged she has links to the Islamic State terror group. It is also believed that Smith has a young son. 

Flanagan told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics today: “I understand there is an Irish citizen… She’s keen to come home. Every effort will be made by Irish authorities to ensure she gets home.”

He added it’s a very complex situation, and that the relevant facts must be ascertained before further steps are taken. 

“I think it would be extremely difficult and challenging to have Irish people there,” Flanagan said referring to the possibility of sending officials there given it is in a conflict zone.

“I don’t believe any Irish citizens go there on their holidays,” he added. 

Speaking generally, Flanagan said there was “strong robust legislation” in place for individuals who may have been involved with the Islamic State to face criminal charges here in Ireland. 

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Security sources have told TheJournal.ie that the woman left the Defence Forces in 2011 and married a Muslim man. She had earlier converted to Islam. It is believed she left for Syria in 2015 after her initial marriage broke down. 

It is understood she is currently being detained by the US armed forces based in northern Syria.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a garda spokesperson said yesterday: “An Garda Síochána are aware of an Irish woman who left Ireland 3 or 4 years ago having become radicalised. She was previously a member of the Irish Defence Forces.”

With reporting from Garreth MacNamee

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Sean Murray

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