Tuesday 25 June 2019

A horrifying assault on the spirit of France

People comfort each other in the aftermath of the truck rampage in Nice. Below: Passers-by walk with their hands over their heads as soldiers stand guard after Nice went into lockdown. Photo: AFP/Getty
People comfort each other in the aftermath of the truck rampage in Nice. Below: Passers-by walk with their hands over their heads as soldiers stand guard after Nice went into lockdown. Photo: AFP/Getty
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

Anybody who has ever been in France on the 14th of July will be aware it's more than a national celebration.

France invites people of all nationalities to join in.

Bastille Day occurs at the height of the tourist season in a country which transforms into a holiday industry.

The French know how to put on a show for their national day commemorating the storming of the Bastille in 1789. The usually warm weather draws families and people of all ages outdoors for street parties to celebrate 'La fête nationale'.

Fireworks displays take place pretty much everywhere.

The national day commemorates both the major event of the French Revolution and the Fête de la Fédération, which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790.

Although its origins are based on the violence of the Revolution, the aim of the celebration is actually to symbolise peace.

The choice of a Bastille Day celebration for a terrorist attack is a deliberate assault on the spirit of France.

The country has just emerged from the successful hosting of Euro 2016, where the only security threat ended up coming from hooligans. France put on a successful security operation ensuring there was no disruption while it was in the international spotlight.

State of emergency

The brutal attack in Nice last night will immediately remind French citizens of the state of emergency the country was engaged in since the Paris attacks last November. If there was any perception that life had returned to normal it will now be wiped from people's minds.

Nice itself was a host city for the Euros, with Northern Ireland there for their opening game against Poland just over a month ago.

The warnings of beach resorts along the Mediterranean coastline being a target for Islamic terrorists were present in the security and intelligence community.

The warped motivation for the attack in Nice is not yet clear. But the reaction of the French authorities would indicate its security services firmly believe it was terrorism.

The targeting of families heading home after a fireworks display is cowardly and sickening.

Similar to the Bataclan and the Charlie Hebdo attacks, innocent victims had no way to defend themselves.

France is under attack once more.

And the 14th of July will now forever have negative connotations in the French mindset.

Irish Independent

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