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Irish IS bride could soon be home - but may face 'hostility'

 

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Irish IS bride Lisa Smith

Irish IS bride Lisa Smith

Irish IS bride Lisa Smith

The repatriation of Islamic State (IS) bride and former Defence Forces recruit Lisa Smith to Ireland is set to be fast-tracked by Kurdish demands for European-born IS sympathisers to be sent home in groups.

It comes as former justice minister Dermot Ahern has suggested the ex-soldier should rethink her wish to come home.

Speaking on RTE, Mr Ahern said he was surprised that the radicalisation of Smith (37) did not ring alarm bells, given that she began the process while serving in the Army.

Mr Ahern, who was Smith's local TD up to 2011, noted that she had spoken previously of the support she received from her superiors when she converted to Islam.

Scrutiny

"The one thing that surprises me is that she became a Muslim when she was in the Defence Forces and wanted to wear a hijab, and she said the senior Defence Force officers treated her very well," he said.

"I suspect she wasn't wearing a hijab in the Government jet but I am surprised that, of all the people who were radicalised, that she, who was in the Defence Forces, that it wasn't picked up in some way."

Mr Ahern also said Smith might need to rethink her wish to return to Ireland.

"She'd nearly be better off not coming home because she'd be subject to an awful lot of scrutiny and hostility and examination."

She would also be hounded by the media, he said.

Local people were also worried about having her back, he said, including his own neighbours, who were caught up in the November 2015 attacks in Paris in which 130 people were killed in a series of shootings and bombings claimed by IS.

Mr Ahern said he realised their fears had to be balanced with the Government's responsibilities for all Irish citizens.

"Behind her [Smith] there is a family who are extremely worried - as are the Healys," he said.

Katie Healy, who grew up next door to the Aherns, and her husband David Nolan were in Paris' Bataclan Theatre during the 2015 attack. Mr Nolan was shot in the foot and has had to endure multiple surgeries.

Smith, who is now widowed and the mother of a two-year-old girl, is being held in a refugee camp in Syria and has said she wants to come home.

Kurdish fighters, who operate the camps where IS brides, sympathisers and fighters are now being held in northern Syria, warned they want to ease pressure on swelling camp numbers by shipping home European detainees in groups rather than as individuals.

The Kurds fear that individual repatriations could take months or years to negotiate.

Faster

One Government source indicated that the transfer of small groups of IS sympathisers to a third country, such as Jordan or Turkey, for onward repatriation will prove much faster than protracted individual transfers.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tanaiste Simon Coveney both indicated efforts were now under way to get the Louth-born woman and her two-year-old daughter Ruqayya back home.

The US, a staunch ally of the Kurds, has warned European countries they need to accept back their nationals.

Ireland is liaising with groups including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent to facilitate the transfer of Smith to a third country for onward repatriation.

There are traditionally strong links between Ireland and Jordan, though Turkey is viewed as a more logical transfer point.