Sunday 25 September 2016

This isn't just happening to France - it's happening to Ireland too

It's easy to sit on the sidelines and speak of solidarity, but all Europe is under this terror threat

Published 17/07/2016 | 02:30

'It has become a cliche to say we stand in solidarity with the French. With each new attack to which they are subjected, we stand in solidarity, but from a safe distance, safe in the knowledge it is happening elsewhere. It’s not.' File photo: AP
'It has become a cliche to say we stand in solidarity with the French. With each new attack to which they are subjected, we stand in solidarity, but from a safe distance, safe in the knowledge it is happening elsewhere. It’s not.' File photo: AP

This is not something that is happening to them. It is happening to all of us. We are all Nice. France is not, in truth, another country. France is the Europe of which we are a part.

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Remember again all the Irish voices you heard over the last few days. Practically everyone knew someone or knew of someone who was in Nice. They go there for the glamour, the faded decadence, the grandiosity, its history as a playground for the rich, the famous, the debauched. They go there for sensual pleasure and to celebrate life. They go for all the things that make Nice precisely the kind of place that radical Islam hates.

But somehow it is easy for us to stroke our chins and ponder whether this is France's chickens coming home to roost. We even balk at calling it terrorism. If some people here had their say, we would not be discussing terrorism this weekend but mental health or marriage breakdown. Perhaps it would take a lorry driven up Grafton Street killing children to get us to take this seriously.

It is easy to blame the French for this. It is easy to point to their attempts to wipe out Isil in Syria and Iraq.

But do we also then blame France for being the most obvious standard bearer in Europe of the enlightenment values to which we claim to subscribe? And for secularism?

We have an awful history of sitting on the sidelines. This weekend, admit it, we feel safe, because we feel we haven't provoked Isil, we haven't come to their attention. Everybody loves the Irish.

As much as we coast along on the coat tails of the UK and US economies, and the freedoms of Europe, we find common cause with the underdogs of Palestine and the Middle East. If only the French could be cute like Paddy, then this kind of thing wouldn't happen there.

And it will never happen here. The instability that is rattling the world won't affect us. We might get uneasy for a moment about a coup in Turkey because we love to go there on holidays and all the barmen in Kusadasi know how to say "Conas a ta tu?" and "How's she cutting?". But then we reassure ourselves that we live in a stable and civilised little enclave, cut off from all this madness.

Ultimately, all this stuff will never come home to roost here. Because Paddy never invaded anyone. Paddy never took sides. Ask anyone what they know about Ireland and they'll tell you we have the greatest football fans in the world. And you'll never beat the Irish.

It has become a cliche to say we stand in solidarity with the French. With each new attack to which they are subjected, we stand in solidarity, but from a safe distance, safe in the knowledge it is happening elsewhere.

It's not. It's happening to us, and increasingly randomly and without a coherent strategy. It's a lashing out at everything we stand for. Not just the French, but us too, as a liberal Western democracy with the kinds of freedoms that radical Islam hates.

It's easy from this safe distance to focus on the terror- ists' view and the injustice that made him do it. It's easy to quietly, slightly blame the French in our heads, but when the French prime minister says France will now have to live with terrorism, he is saying we will too.

This is not something that is happening to them. It is happening to all of us.

Sunday Independent

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