We are all familiar with the notion of cause and effect; supposedly, a butterfly can flap its wings in the Amazon and set in train a cascade of momentous events. Yet somehow we are still startled by the fact that after years of relentless war-mongering by world powers, our continent should be affected by the cataclysm so long visited on the people of these regions. The forces compelling the millions in war-torn Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East to flee for their lives are not easily resisted. In Europe we still have the luxury of taking for granted that leaving home is always a choice, and not the only option. Today, an emergency summit will be held to come up with some kind of solution to help these desperate people.
In the run-up to this meeting, the UN has helpfully reminded leaders that the 120,000 people the bloc is seeking to share out are equivalent to just six days' worth of arrivals at the current rate. Yesterday, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders suggested that the only way to halt the flow of people pouring into Europe is to end the war in Syria. He said: "It is not only a question of border controls and quotas. If the war in Syria does not end, people will keep coming."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also warned that Europe can only get a long-term grip on the refugee crisis by tackling what is causing people to flee other nations - not by building fences. A global response is essential. But Ms Merkel also said the EU needs to send "signals of order" in the crisis. Most importantly, she said: "We are learning in this refugee situation that we are all connected to each other and our lives are affected if terrible things happen elsewhere." She added: "We will not be able to change that by building fences ... only by fighting the causes."
So far, the appetite for this fight has been singularly lacking. That is why we must finally clearly demonstrate that we are ready to engage seriously with this tragedy, and not run from it.
CCTV not enough to stop gangs' rural crime spree
It is a given that we are not all deductive geniuses or Conan Doyles, nonetheless the tardy response to rural crime has been hard to fathom.
The news that the Government is to back closed-circuit TV schemes to combat travelling gangs of burglars around the country is an innovation; but it is not a substitute for the extra gardaí that communities so desperately want.
It is intended that cameras will be placed on motorways, under Environment Minister Alan Kelly's proposal.
It requires quite a leap of faith to believe that thugs who prey on octogenarians will have any compunction in making short work of these cameras.
Local community alert groups do wonderful work, but it is a tall order to expect them to fill the void left by the vanishing garda stations.
Urban gangs of criminals have been given a virtually free run in a grim legacy of post-crash cutbacks.
There is an opportunity here now to address this deficit and it behoves the Coalition to do so.
To be fair to the Government, it is planning other initiatives, including the allocation of €100m in the Budget for garda overtime. New legislation is also envisaged to put the heat on repeat offenders, bail curbs are also envisaged.
All of these are positive measures, but they should be the precursor to a commitment to supporting rural life.