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Terrorism is the great challenge of our times

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People leave flowers outside the Istanbul nightclub which was attacked by a gunman Photo: AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

People leave flowers outside the Istanbul nightclub which was attacked by a gunman Photo: AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

AP

People leave flowers outside the Istanbul nightclub which was attacked by a gunman Photo: AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

Tens of millions of people, in iconic cities across the globe, gathered in public to ring out the old and in the new. But the dawning of 2017 ended with another tale of horror with a murderous terrorist attack on nightclub revellers in the venerable city of Istanbul in Turkey.

At the time of writing, scores of people have lost their lives. Decent people across the world, including the people of Ireland, feel the pain and grief of the Turkish people.

At least 24 citizens from countries other than Turkey were killed, including people from Israel, Belgium, Lebanon, Jordan, France, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

This again reminds us how terrorism shatters lives in many different countries and in the modern world has a near global reach.

Most of us will know something of the importance of Turkey as a meeting point between different geopolitical poles of power. We cannot forget that instability in Turkey has ramifications for people in very many other countries.

The old year 2016 was one of horrific terrorist attacks with not a month going by without news of another horror. The three big ones seared upon our memories were the two bombings in Zaventem Airport, Brussels, and that city's Maalbeek metro station on March 22; the horrific Bastille Day truck attack in Nice on July 14; and a similar attack on a Berlin Christmas market on December 19.

In Ireland, we cannot assume that the horrors of such attacks will continue to remain absent from our shores. But as one of the world's most globalised economies, with multiple personalised connections all across Europe and beyond, we also have obligations to our beleaguered neighbours. Terrorism is the great scourge of the modern era and we must all combat it together in every way we can.

Unpredictable 2017 will need visionary leadership

The old year 2016 was a strange one, replete with surprises, many of which were unpleasant.

Yet, the economic indicators suggest 2016 ended with Ireland better fixed than at its start. That's not a bad thought as we face into 2017.

Most of the horrors of 2016 happened beyond these shores. Across mainland Europe there were lamentable outbreaks of terrorist violence.

In politics there was the shock of June 23 last when voters in the country which is our biggest trading partner, and closest ally, decided to quit the EU. It has posed Ireland the biggest foreign policy challenge in the State's existence, with huge implications for the North.

The consequences of Brexit will dominate 2017 and our Government will need a sharp focus and great courage. Similarly, 2017 will bring us more detail on how that other big surprise, the election of president Donald Trump on November 8, will play out in practice.

This coming year, elections in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and probably Italy, could have a huge impact on Ireland's future. The challenges ahead cry out for strong and visionary leadership.

But our greatest ally right now must be optimism. As the world's most connected global economy we must think globally and act locally.

All new years offer us the prospect of a fresh start. Let us approach the coming 12 months with courage and hope and take all the positives that we can from them.

Irish Independent