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'The compassionate thing to do': Lisa Smith will have right to return to Ireland as will her child, says Varadkar

Lisa Smith is reportedly being detained by the US armed forces based in northern Syria.

Lisa Smith
Lisa Smith
Image: Tom Conachy

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that Lisa Smith, who has reportedly been detained in Syria, will be allowed to return to Ireland as it is the “compassionate” thing to do. 

On Friday night it emerged that Smith, originally from Dundalk, was being held in northern Syria on suspicion of Islamic State membership. 

Speaking in Dublin today, Varadkar said more information is needed on Smith’s case and that a security assessment will be carried before she is allowed return to Ireland. 

“As an Irish citizen, she will have the right to return to Ireland, as will her child who’s an Irish citizen.

“But it’s not just as simple as coming here, and everything proceeding as if nothing had happened,” he said. 

But ultimately this is an Irish citizen and we don’t believe that removing an Irish citizen’s citizenship from her or her family, rendering them stateless, would be either the right or compassionate thing to do.

Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone said the Government would attend to the best interest of Smith’s two-year-old child, adding “I think that’s the way the government has always operated”.

Yesterday, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said that the State will make every effort to bring Smith home.

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.

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This sentiment was echoed by Varadkar who told reporters that “going to Syria, going to live in what was called the Islamic State is not in itself an offence or a crime,” adding that the Government will need to carry out an investigation. 

I know the authorities there want to interrogate her to see if she was involved in any crimes there, but it’s very possible that she was never a combatant for example.

“There may need to be a prosecution there and we need to make sure that if she does return to Ireland that she isn’t a threat to anybody,” Varadkar said. 

Security sources have told 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.

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Adam Daly

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