Acts of terror put new focus on our neutrality
IT began as a night of inconceivable terror in Paris, but for more than a week the world has been convulsed by a series of attacks carried out by Isil, al-Qa'ida and other terror affiliates.
As Paris mourned its dead, French police moved swiftly to identify the masterminds behind the terrorist attack that killed 130 and injured hundreds more.
Within days, German authorities were dealing with concrete threats to its security, cancelling an international soccer friendly with the Netherlands in Hanover last Tuesday.
As France began air strikes against Isil's 'caliphate' in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared it was a bomb that brought down a Russian passenger jet over the Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Nigeria became the next terrorism target when at least 42 people died following two bomb attacks in the north-east of the country. And last night Mali was dealing with the aftermath of a siege in an American-owned hotel in Bamako, its capital, an attack that claimed at least 27 lives.
It is to Mali that additional Irish troops will be sent to relieve French soldiers recalled to take part in France's Isil offensive. The siege in Mali is a reminder of the risks faced by Irish troops, 500 of whom are serving in peacekeeping and enforcement missions overseas.
Ireland has a proud tradition of peacekeeping, but no one underestimates the dangers to which our forces are exposed.
Ireland also prides its sovereignty in respect of our official if at times overstretched position of neutrality.
Can that stated position be wholly maintained in the face of a growing security and refugee crisis engulfing Europe?
Taoiseach Enda Kenny recently told British business leaders that Ireland's commitment to the EU is "clear and unqualified". This may increase pressure on Ireland to shore up its defence capabilities at home and increase its participation in overseas missions, pressures that may force a rethink on our notions of neutrality.