The complex case of Lisa Smith

Roisin Cullen

Death threats via voice message to a UCC lecturer on Contemporary Islam. Viral hate videos orchestrated by what are now well known social media presences. Anti-Islamic flyers distributed outside a refugee centre in Roscommon. Islamophobia is a growing issue in Ireland. 

The repatriation of Lisa Smith threatens to only fuel this hatred and prejudice further. The former member of the Irish Defence Forces turned Islamic state bride’s arrival on the runway at Dublin Airport threatens to further advance the idea of “us” versus “them”.  

Petitions against refugees, closed Facebook groups and tricolours raised by anti-immigration activists have become commonplace in some rural Irish towns. We are a country that prides itself on its “céad míle fáilte”.

These one hundred thousand welcomes are of course offered to American tourists visiting Killarney via jaunting cart and multi-national company conferences that book into Dublin hotels. However, our welcomes often fall short when it comes to those who come to the country seeking help, especially for those who do not possess that all important Irish passport. 

Lisa Smith has the right to return home because she possesses a small red booklet with a gold symbolic harp, the document that declares that she is a citizen of Éire. 

When in the defence forces Smith worked on government trips with Mary McAleese and Bertie Ahern. “I liked Bertie. He was very sound. Mary McAleese, she was down to earth as well,” Smith said. She is an Irish woman from Dundalk, that admitted to having a “party girl” lifestyle before she converted to Islam.

To date,  Smith has failed to apologise for her actions or condemn the actions of the Islamic state. However, at the centre of this case is also a child, an innocent child with Irish citizenship. This child should be afforded all the possibilities the Irish education system and government can provide. 

Other countries though have refused entry to their citizens that have had similar links to the Islamic State. In 2014 amendments were made to British Law that led to UK born Shamima Begum’s citizenship being revoked. Zehra Duman, the Melbourne schoolgirl dubbed “Australia’s first ISIS bride” also found out that she would never be returning home. 

In the next few weeks we will find out the fate of Lisa Smith. Yet, it has brought into question what it means to be an Irish citizen. Is citizenship completely defined by a red booklet with a harp? Is that piece of paper everlasting or is citizenship a luxury that can be revoked? Is it a country’s responsibility to deal with their own citizens and not ship them off to other states? 

Our history is deep rooted in emigration; boarding coffin ships in the hope of a better life. If we have “room” for an Islamic State bride surely we can find appropriate housing for the men, women and children that are currently fleeing war and famine and seeking refuge on our shores.

Róisín Cullen

Image: BBC