Tánaiste Simon Coveney has told the Dáil that Irish military personnel were sent to Turkey in a supportive role and not to extract Lisa Smith from the country. 

Ms Smith travelled to Syria in 2016 to join the so-called Islamic State group.

She and her two-year-old daughter are currently in a remote area near the Turkish/Syrian border as officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs are working to finalise their repatriation.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Mr Coveney said his "primary concern" was for a "two-year-old little girl who in my view as an Irish citizen, we have an obligation to protect. That is what is driving all of this."

Mr Coveney said it made sense to send Irish military personnel to speak to the Turkish military. 

He added that there had been some suggestions that the Irish Government was sending people to Turkey to extract Ms Smith, but that was never the case. 

He added that the Irish military personnel were playing a supportive role to the Irish ambassador and her team. 

Mr Coveney also said the Turkish government made it clear when they pick up people the will repatriate them. 

He said there were an number of issues about radicalisation which would have to be dealt with "if and when" Ms Smith comes. 

The Dundalk woman will be subject to a security assessment when she arrives back in Dublin to determine whether or not she poses a risk to the State.

The Department of Foreign Affairs will have to be satisfied as to the identities of the mother and child before they are permitted to enter Ireland.


(First published in June 2019)

How was Lisa Smith radicalised?

Gardaí are also preparing to interview her as part of their ongoing criminal investigation into suspected terrorist offences.

The Turkish government has asked all European countries to take their citizens home and has also said that two Irish people are among those to be deported.

The 38-year-old has the choice of either being repatriated voluntarily with the help of the Government and the consular assistance she is entitled to, or of being deported by the Turkish government.

RTÉ News understands that Ms Smith will be brought home once her travel documents and identity papers have been finalised, which could be within the next two weeks.

A number of State agencies will be involved in the care of Ms Smith and her child when she arrives home, including Tusla, which has the responsibility for the welfare of children, but the gardaí will be the lead agency.

All necessary medical, legal and other support services will be available Ms Smith.

As in the case of all of those who return from conflict zones, Ms Smith will be the subject of a security and intelligence assessment to ensure she is not a security risk to the State.

Five other returnees have been assessed and found not to be a security risk and are being assimilated back into Irish society.

However, the case of Ms Smith is different. As a former member of the Defence Forces she is a trained soldier and proficient in the use of firearms.

She is also the subject of a criminal investigation and will be questioned about suspected terrorist offences abroad.

Gardaí have been gathering evidence for a number of years from Ireland, Africa, the Middle East and the UK as part of the investigation but are required to interview Ms Smith before a file can be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

She can be prosecuted under existing legislation but that will be a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

It is an offence under the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences Act 2005) to engage in terrorist activity in or outside the State.

The gardaí have the power to arrest Ms Smith when she arrives back in Ireland but no decision has been taken in relation to it.

Her level of co-operation with the Irish authorities will also be assessed.

It is likely Ms Smith will be brought home on a commercial flight. The Government has already ruled out the use of the Government jet.

Additional reporting Paul Reynolds