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Air Corps members tried to warn superiors about Lisa Smith's radicalisation

They were accused of bullying her.

Lisa Smith
Lisa Smith
Image: Tom Conachy

A NUMBER OF members of the Defence Forces told their superiors that they believed Lisa Smith had been radicalised in the months before she left the organisation but had their complaints dismissed, TheJournal.ie has learned.

At least four former members of the Defence Forces say they voiced their concerns, with two of them claiming their warnings were met with advice that what they were saying could be construed as bullying or discriminatory behaviour. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, the four ex-officers and airmen said their worries were dismissed by their superiors when they spoke about Smith, a former Air Corps private who would later leave Ireland for Syria and join Isis. 

One former member described how he was told any formal complaint by him could result in an investigation under the Defence Force’s A7 code of conduct, which is how the Defence Forces deal with complaints of bullying. 

Another member of the force, who served with Smith in the Air Corps, explained how there were fears she was possibly radicalised prior to her request to wear a hijab on duty. He also claims that he was warned there could be sanctions under A7 rules if he raised the issue formally.

He recalled how Smith had become fascinated with Islamic terror organisations and regularly spoke about them to her colleagues. He claims that staff in senior ranks laughed at suggestions she had become radicalised. 

A spokesman for the Defence Forces said: “Óglaigh na hÉireann does not comment on individual cases of current or previously serving personnel. There are robust procedures in place for any individual who has a grievance in the Defence Forces, and such complaints are investigated and action is taken where substantiated.”

Smith’s plea

A Dundalk native, Smith previously worked in the Irish Defence Forces but left service in 2011 after converting to Islam. It is believed she departed for Syria in 2015 after her first marriage broke down. While there, she married a British IS fighter. It is understood he was killed two months ago.

In an interview the Irish Mail on Sunday last week, Smith pleaded with Irish authorities to bring her home. She also claimed not to have fought with the Islamic State. 

She told journalist Norma Costello: “I didn’t do anything, I never even owned a rifle when I was in Dowla [Arabic for ‘state’] (laughs), I didn’t even own a gun. I, 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.” 

Speaking in the Dáil last month after briefing his Cabinet on the matter, Leo Varadkar said that Smith has a two-year-old child that is an “innocent” Irish citizen. 

“I am very conscious of the fact that while nobody can condone the choice that she has made and the actions that she took in aligning herself with ISIS, a terrorist regime that is hell-bent on the destruction of the West and Christendom, she does have a two-year-old child that is an Irish citizen and that child is an innocent child.

“And as is the case with all Irish citizens, they will be permitted to re-enter the State should they try to do so,” added the Taoiseach. 

The European Commission’s Radicalisation Awareness Network (Ran) has a manual for member states on how to respond to the return of terrorist fighters and their families. 

With the fall of the Islamic State in Syria, the entire world is having to make decisions, not least Ireland. The approach to any return of citizens who may have been fighting or non-combatant members of the Islamic State group will involve many arms of the State.

With female returnees, the Ran manual says that some may be unhappy with their experience of hardship and oppression or that their husbands may have been killed in the fighting. Others come back for medical treatment for their children. In a few instances, families have paid for the women’s freedom, rescuing them from terrorist organisations. 

According to Ran, many women were led to believe that joining Daesh would give them a sense of empowerment.

In Episode #3 of The Explainer, TheJournal.ie’s podcast, we examine the current state of play regarding Islamic State in Syria, why its members are leaving the country, and what Ireland’s options are for returning citizens. 


Source: The Explainer/SoundCloud

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