Sunday 25 September 2016

'Bastille Day is our St Patrick's Day... imagine' - French Ambassador speaks of his 'great sadness'

Conor Feehan and Denise Calnan

Published 15/07/2016 | 10:58

French ambassador Jean-Pierre Thébault. Photo: Frank McGrath
French ambassador Jean-Pierre Thébault. Photo: Frank McGrath

The French Ambassador has described the actions of the terrorist who killed more than 80 people in France as like rolling a tank over the crowd on O’Connell Street on St Patrick's Day.

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Jean-Pierre Thebault said information coming from France is that around 20 of the dead are children.

“It is difficult to describe the feelings of shock and grief that such a terrorist attack could target so many innocent families and children,” Mr Thebault told the Herald.

“People were out celebrating a national holiday, and this attack was to deviate from that.

“The message we are getting from France is that 84 people have been killed but this could rise because there are 10 to 15 people who are critically ill. We have also heard that a substantial number of the dead a children, figures of 29 have been mentioned,” he added.

“It is hard to imagine how anybody driven by a deviant ideology, with a deviant mind and attitude, could use a truck like a tank to mow over so many people.

Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016.
AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers and rescued workers stand near a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers and rescue workers arrive at the scene of an attack on July 14, 2016, after a van ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers speak with a soldier after a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers stand near a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers and firefighters arrive near the site of an attack on July 14, 2016, after a van ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
A vehicle of the Raid special intervention unit of the French police is seen near the site of the attack. AFP/Getty Images
Police officers stand near a van that ploughed into a crowd. AFP/Getty Images
A soldier stands guard near the site of the Nice attack. AFP/Getty Images
A helicopter flies near the site of the attack in the French Riviera town of Nice. AFP/Getty Images
A man walks with his hands up as police officers carry out checks on people in the centre of French Riviera town of Nice, after a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display on July 14, 2016. AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers carry out checks on vehicles in the centre of French Riviera town of Nice. AFP/Getty Images
Police officers carry out checks on vehicles in the centre of French Riviera town of Nice. AFP/Getty Images
Police officers carry out checks on vehicles in the centre of French Riviera town of Nice, after the terror attack. AFP/Getty Images
Police officers carry out checks on vehicles in the centre of French Riviera town of Nice, after a van drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display. AFP/Getty Images
Police officers carry out checks on vehicles in the centre of French Riviera town of Nice after the terror attack. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
The truck that mowed through revellers in Nice (AP)
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck July 15, 2016 that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing at least 60 people in Nice, France, July 14. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck July 15, 2016 that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing at least 60 people in Nice, France, July 14. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing at least 60 people in Nice, France. Photo: Reuters
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing at least 60 people in Nice, France. Photo: Reuters
Police officers and a soldier stand by the sealed off area of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France. Photo: AP
Video grab shows ambulances and Police cars after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who had gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice. Photo: BFMTV via AP
French police and forensic officers stand beside a truck that ploughed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice
French soldiers stand guard by the sealed off area of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France. Photo: AP
French soldiers stand guard by the sealed off area of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Ciaran Fahey)
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing at least 60 people in Nice, France. Photo: Reuters
People cross the street with their hands on thier heads as a French soldier secures the area July 15, 2016 after at least 60 people were killed along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14. REUTERS/Jean-Pierre Amet
French police and rescue forces vehicles are seen on the Promenade des Anglais July 15, 2016 after at least 60 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14. REUTERS/Jean-Pierre Amet
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck July 15, 2016 that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing at least 60 people in Nice, France, July 14. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
French police and rescue forces vehicles are seen on the Promenade des Anglais July 15, 2016 after at least 60 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14. REUTERS/Jean-Pierre Amet
Police officers seal off the area of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Ciaran Fahey)
French soldiers cordon the area after at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Twitter feed video grab courtesy of @harp_detectives of people running away after dozens of people are believed to have been killed when a lorry ploughed into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice. @harp_detectives/PA Wire
Twitter feed video grab courtesy of @harp_detectives of people running away after dozens of people are believed to have been killed when a lorry ploughed into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice. @harp_detectives/PA Wire
French soldiers stand guard by the sealed off area of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Ciaran Fahey)
French soldiers and rescue forces are seen at the scene whare at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
French soldiers and police secure the area after at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
French soldiers advance on the street after at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
French soldiers secure the street after at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
French soldiers advance on the street after at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
People cross the street with their hands on thier heads as a French soldier secures the area after the attack
French police and rescue forces vehicles are seen on the Promenade des Anglais after at least 60 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday. Photo: Reuters
French police and rescue forces vehicles are seen on the Promenade des Anglais after at least 60 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday. Photo: Reuters
Police officers seal off the area of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France. Photo: AP
Police officers and rescue workers arrive at the scene of an attack on July 14, 2016, after a van ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A vehicle of the Raid special intervention unit of the French police is seen near the site of the attack in the French Riviera town of Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A helicopter flying near the scene after a van ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Police officers carry out checks on vehicles in the centre of French Riviera town of Nice, after a van drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display on Bastille Day. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
At least 60 people are feared dead after a van drove into a crowd watching Bastille Day fireworks in the French resort of Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A soldier stands guard near the site of an attack in the French Riviera town of Nice, after a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display on July 14. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Police officers speak with a soldier after a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Police officers stand near a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Police officers and firefighters arrive near the scene after a van ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. . Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Police officers stand near a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Photo: @harp_detectives/PA Wire
People running away after dozens of people are believed to have been killed in Nice (harp_detectives)
French soldiers secure the street after at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
French soldiers advance on the street after the terror attack in Nice, France. Reuters/Eric Gaillard
French soldiers advance on the street after at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

“He was a carrier of a message of hate. In Irish terms it would be like rolling over the crowd gathered to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on O’Connell Street.

“It seems some people want an instant of fame, and what is worrying is that there could be more of these people out there,” he explained.

Mr Thebault said the messages of support coming from Ireland are exactly what the people of France need to hear now.

“We saw it with the numbers of Irish fans who travelled in such impressive numbers to France for Euro 2016, who went despite the terror threat and showed solidarity with the French people and everyone in the free world to send a message that the terrorists will not win,” he said.

“This is the right answer to the terrorists - the messages of support. It sends the right message to the families of the victims too, that the people of the free world support them in their grief,” he added.

“The Irish were applauded worldwide for standing in unison with the people of France. That is the message we need.

“In fact we have just been contacted by President Higgins who offered us his solidarity and support on behalf of the people of Ireland,” he said.

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland earlier, Mr Thébault said:

"Bastille Day means freedom, the way we want to live in our democracy and our societies.

"This war has not ended. This threat is constantly on us.

"Bastille Day is our St Patrick Day," he continued.

"Imagine if a lorry went through a St Patrick Day parade. I am deeply grateful that it will never happen."

The ambassador said the "next step" is to "step up our efforts to fight it".

"It is impossible to continue like this, we cannot live in fear," he said.

Meanwhile, the Irish Ambassador to France Geraldine Byrne Nason said the information is "coming slowly" following the attack.

As of Friday morning, it was not yet known if any Irish people were injured in the atrocity.

"We have received a low number of calls, we're working closely with Paris and Dublin and we have to wait," she said.

"The Minister of Foreign Affair Charles Flanagan has been in contact with the embassy and has conveyed his sympathu.

"He has asked us to reassure the Irish that we are doing our utmost in Paris and Dublin for Irish citizens in France.

"It is hard to find superlatives to describe what happened to people on an evening that is so iconic," she added.

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