Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan says that efforts will be made to bring so-called ‘Irish ISIS bride’ Lisa Smith home from Syria – but she may face charges if she does return.
The Laois Fine Gael Minister was speaking to Aine Lawlor on The Week in Politics when he made the comments.
Asked by the host if travelling to Syria was a crime, Minister Flanagan said it wasn’t but that joining a terror group was and if it could be proven that Lisa Smith was a member of ISIS, she would be met with the full force of the law.
He said: “It is not an offence to go to another country but it is an offence to engage in the type of activities that some people are engaged in in that part of the world
“We do have strong and robhust legislation in terms of it being a criminal offence to be involved with ISIS.
“We have the law but what we need is the evidence to ensure a conviction. This is something we are grappling with at EU level – how we deal with people when they return.”
Responding directly to a question about Lisa Smith, Minister Flanagan confirmed that Ireland would not revoke her citizenship – as the UK did with Shamima Begum last month.
Instead, he said that efforts would be made to bring her home.
He said: “I do understand that there is an Irish citizen who has been named in the media. She is keen to come home.
“Every effort will be made on the part of the Irish authorities to ensure that she does get home. You’re talking about a situation here of enormous conflict. One of the most difficult conflicts
“We don’t know the facts. We are talking to international intelligence agencies.
“If there are children involved, we need to ensure there is compassion there.
“We don’t have people there. It would be very challenging to have officials there. I don’t believe any Irish citizens go there on their holidays.”
On Friday night, it emerged that Smith, who is from Dundalk in Louth, was being 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.
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.
The Department for Justice released the following statement to LaoisToday.
They said: “Safeguarding the public is a central priority for the Government and for our security authorities.
“There is ongoing liaison between the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána and the Minister for Justice and Equality is continuously monitoring the situation.
“It is not the practice to comment on security matters or on individual cases.
“Each case is individually considered and assessed based on its own merits and the overall public interest.”