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Paris should focus Northern Ireland's politicians

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 17/11/2015

A candle-lit memorial at the Place de la République to the victims of the terrorist attacks on Friday
A candle-lit memorial at the Place de la République to the victims of the terrorist attacks on Friday

If people anywhere can empathise with the citizens of Paris, as they mourn the deaths of some 129 people and fear that more loved ones may yet succumb to the terrible injuries they suffered on Friday night, it is we who live in Northern Ireland.

We may never have suffered an atrocity on that scale on a single night, but over three decades more than 3,000 people died as a result of terrorism here.

Often the victims were like those in Paris, just going about their daily business, calling into a pub or restaurant, taking in some entertainment or simply walking the streets of their home town or city. Indeed, given the longevity and ruthlessness of the terrorist campaign here, many who lived through it count themselves lucky to have done so.

For those left bereaved by such casual terrorism - as our feature story today reveals - the death of a loved one in an instant is still felt as keenly today as when they were plucked from this mortal coil.

The two people featured, Ann Travers and Alan McBride, know that the mourning, the profound shock at the death of a relative and the sense of inconsolable grief - the emotions that so many French people are feeling today - will change in time, but the sense of needless loss will never fade.

The attacks in Paris - the second in a year - following the apparent blowing up of a Russian airliner leaving an Egyptian holiday resort, have left many of us with the feeling that much of the world is now unsafe. It was a feeling that many outsiders had during our Troubles, leading them to shun the province.

But that is exactly what the terrorists want - spreading fear, creating terror and making people feel they are defenceless. Instead, we should refuse to be cowed. We should see the deaths in Paris as we did here, a reason to ensure that terrorism can never win.

However, terrorism leaves a terrible legacy, particularly in the human toll. It is a problem which we in Northern Ireland have never properly addressed. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said yesterday that the legacy of the past is proving a sticking point in the current Stormont talks.

It now seems inevitable that most of those bereaved will never see the killers brought to justice. But the truth about why their loved ones died would still be a prize worth having.

The terrible events of Paris should make our politicians refocus their efforts, to bring some crumb of comfort to those who mourn still.

Belfast Telegraph

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