Paris attacks: Caution vital in terror response
The devastating attacks on innocent people in Paris were a direct and terrifying assault on a peaceful and democratic country.
It was also an attempt by cold-blooded fanatics to increase terror and to strike fear into the hearts of people everywhere.
The French government announced three days of mourning for the 132 people who died in the terrible attacks, which also left a large number of others badly wounded.
Sadly, however, the tragic memory of what happened in Paris will last long after the official mourning period, and the major focus has already turned inevitably to the international response to the so-called Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the closely co-ordinated and murderous attacks.
From our own sad experience over so many years in Northern Ireland, we know only too well that terror can strike at any time, and in any place.
Unfortunately it is so often the most vulnerable people who suffer, as in Paris when so many defenceless men and women having dinner, enjoying a football match, or attending a concert, were the victims.
The natural reaction at such times is to seek revenge, and to hit back quickly and decisively against those whose aim it is to destroy the freedoms which so many of us take for granted.
Such reactions are natural, but they must be tempered by caution and good sense.
Those behind the atrocities are hoping for an over-reaction, which could recruit more people for their warped cause.
However, justice and stability are better-served when the counter-measures against terrorism are calculated rather than rushed.
This is the time for a considered response by governments around the world.
The security and intelligence capabilities should be used to their optimum effect to confront these cowardly enemies wherever terrorism springs up.
Paris was the target on Friday night, but it could have been any other major city in Europe, including in the UK.
This is a time for vigilance.
It is also a time to trust in the hard-won values of freedom and tolerance which the terrorists want to destroy.
This is the best way to pay tribute to all those innocent people who died so brutally in Paris last Friday evening.