Belfast Telegraph

Charlie Hebdo attacks: We share your pain, Northern Ireland Assembly tells grieving people of France

By Noel McAdam

Northern Ireland shares the pain of the people of France in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Assembly has heard.

The bombing of the Belfast Telegraph offices and the murder of Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan were cited as MLAs united to condemn the killings by Islamic extremists.

"Terrorists cannot abide a free Press," Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kinahan told MLAs

All parties joined forces to voice solidarity with the victims' families and join the chant "Nous Sommes Charlie", which has become a universal expression of protest against the murders at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and at a Jewish supermarket.

The attacks in France formed the first main item of business as the Assembly began its new term following a four-week festive break.

Mr Kinahan, who tabled the matter, apologised for his French when he said: "Nous sommes Charlie."

"We in Northern Ireland are well aware of the brutal realities of terrorism, yet the events in France last week shocked, I am sure, even the most hardened of us.

"There is no absolute right not to be offended; that is something that we in Northern Ireland should always bear in mind.

"We should also remember the murderous attacks against the Belfast Telegraph by the Provisional IRA, plus the attempted and actual murder of Sunday World journalists by so-called loyalists."

DUP minister Arlene Foster said: "We are very much aware that Islamic extremists were the perpetrators. Just as in Northern Ireland, where the terrorists did not speak for the community during their worst excesses, very much Islamic terrorists do not represent the Muslim world."

Sinn Fein's Caitriona Ruane said: "The displays of unity and resolve that we have witnessed since last week's terrible tragedies have been heartening. We must redouble our efforts to resolve conflict. The only way in which to do that is through dialogue."

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said: "People in Northern Ireland can share the pain of the people of Paris and France. We here have known our fair share of suffering and, indeed, in the context of free speech and attacks on journalism. Many of our own journalists were attacked over the years, none more so than Martin O'Hagan, who was brutally murdered basically for calling it as he saw it."

Alliance minister Stephen Farry said: "There are major forces at work that are trying to tear societies apart, and it is incumbent upon us... to see how we can bring people together (while) at the same time, we respect and celebrate diversity."

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