Ian O'Doherty: If we can't debate Europe's Islamic influx, this is sure to happen again
Well, that wasn't in the script, was it? When news of the school shooting in France first emerged, there was genuine shock and revulsion -- what sort of monster goes into a school and starts shooting kids?
Indeed, while the scale was obviously smaller, there were rather harrowing echoes of the Anders Breivik massacre in Oslo last summer -- implacable cruelty to such an extent that the shooter was alleged to have held one of his victims, an eight-year-old girl, by the hair to steady himself before he shot her in the head.
So, who was the culprit and what were his motivations?
I and some shocked friends were discussing this when the story first broke and we all unanimously agreed that this was an act of terrorism; the work of a deranged Islamist who was reacting to the increasingly tough French laws dealing with Muslim extremism.
But no, that scenario was quickly shut down by both the liberal media in Europe and Ireland, and instead we were drip-fed a series of stories arguing that this was more than likely the work of a French white supremacist, quite possibly one of the three French paratroopers who had been dismissed from their regiment when pictures of them giving a Nazi salute in front of a swastika emerged.
And we knew who to blame, right?
Of course we did -- Sarkozy.
According to opposition French politicians, Nicolas Sarkozy and his new, hardline policy against foreigners in France and his politically motivated stance of metaphorically wrapping le tricolour around his shoulder had given succour to racists and xenophobes in that country.
Indeed, it was suggested, in his zeal to steal some thunder from the rising National Front who now have a less odious leader than the infamous Jean Marie Le Pen in the shape of his daughter Marine, the president had legitimised racism and bigotry.
That's why we were immediately informed that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, this was the work of a disaffected white lone wolf, a vicious and cruel psychopath who, through the precision of his actions, betrayed military, possibly sharpshooting training.
Hence, went the argument, he must have been a former French soldier.
This immediately led to a predictably frenzied bout of hand-wringing and chest- beating from the chattering classes.
The European Far Right, we were told, was gaining ground amongst disaffected youth and this was all the fault of race-baiting politicians and a rabid media -- conveniently ignoring the fact that most of the media in Europe is avowedly liberal and in favour of the failed experiment of multiculturalism.
The Irish Times was quick to hop on the bandwagon, comparing this slaughter of the innocents to that of Breivik and saying that: "Racism seems to be the common thread" between the two atrocities.
Well, as it turned out, they were right -- but for the wrong reasons.
Because the shooter turned out to be a self-confessed member of Al-Qa'ida, a French citizen of Algerian origin who had spent time in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and was already on a police watch list.
Yes, indeed there was racism at work here, a virulent hatred of Jews and a deranged, incoherent world view that made it morally acceptable for Mohammed Merah to gun down Jewish children because he wanted "revenge for the children of Palestine".
The immediate, collective decision to automatically place the blame at the hands of a white French person were undoubtedly based on some empirical evidence (France has always been a country with more than its fair share of racists as we see going back as far as the Dreyfus affair of 1894) and was obviously a legitimate line of investigation.
What was interesting was how quickly the Muslim angle was thrown overboard in favour of a home-grown fanatic.
But then we shouldn't be surprised.
The desperate, and largely laudable, urge to avoid, or at least to be seen to avoid, stigmatising certain sections of society has led to censorship by stealth.
By this I mean that many commentators and politicians have stayed away from the issue of radical Islam because they don't want to be condemned as racist and, perhaps subconsciously, they are also afraid of being killed.
It's moral cowardice of the worst order and it is also dangerous.
Why do you think the BNP and the EDL are so popular in Britain right now? Why do you think that the French National Front has become so popular amongst the white working class that Sarkozy has to plunder their political play book?
Because when you have a dispossessed, disenfranchised working class which, rightly or wrongly, feels that more consideration is given to immigrants and religious fanatics than to the indigenous population, then sooner or later things are going to get ugly.
And when you have a political class which states that anyone who has concerns about the Islamicisation of Europe is a racist, eventually people are going to say ... OK, call me racist.
And that's where the real danger lies.
There was a rather peculiar documentary hosted by Keith Allen about the English Defence League recently.
In it, he spoke to their leader Tommy Robinson who initially made some strong and perfectly valid points.
Wow, I thought, maybe this guy isn't the racist nutcase of media legend.
And then he got drunk and started throwing stones at some policemen.
Is this the best we can come up with to tackle radical Islam, which, lest we forget, kills more Muslims around the world than any other country or ideology?
Has the political vacuum now been filled by a bunch of violent nutters who are mentally incapable of articulating their anger other than by throwing stones?
The savagery of the Toulouse massacre was beyond comprehension.
But mark my words -- if we don't start having an open and honest debate which embraces some uncomfortable topics that mainstream media and political elite would rather avoid, then what happened in that French city will not be the last time we see something like this.