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United stand against the terrorists is vital

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 27/07/2016

Candles are lit at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray City Hall in tribute to Fr Jacques Hamel
Candles are lit at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray City Hall in tribute to Fr Jacques Hamel

We in Northern Ireland have long and sorrowful experience of terrorism and can empathise with the people of France who feel under siege from Islamic extremists, the latest act being the horrific murder of an 84-year-old priest in Normandy as he was saying Mass.

It was a particularly barbaric assault on a defenceless man, and the French people are left wondering if there are no depths to which those responsible for this and other attacks will not sink.

As we know, the whole object of terrorists is to terrorise, and the fact that these people are ruthless and prepared to die in the commission of their crimes makes them all the more formidable foes.

It is natural, in response to such outrages, that the public demand greater security from State forces, and the fact that both knifemen involved in yesterday's murder were known to intelligence services - one was even electronically tagged and under a partial curfew - has only increased calls for even tougher measures to be introduced, and fuelled suspicions that the security forces are not on top of the threats.

However, it is impossible for all suspects to be constantly monitored or shadowed, and previously unknown terrorists will always emerge to wreak havoc.

Of course, it is not only France that is facing this terrorist threat, although it has suffered most grievously - in attacks in Paris and Nice in particular. However, terrorism has claimed scores of lives this year alone in Germany, Belgium and Turkey.

Increasingly, questions are being asked about Europe's open borders policy - although it has to be remembered that many of the terrorists were long-term residents of the countries where they committed their crimes.

While the EU may be particularly keen to retain its free movement of people across member states, there are bound to be restrictions and more detailed scrutiny as security measures are tightened in response to the mounting death toll and increased public anger.

What is also required is for strong Islamic voices to be heard unequivocally condemning all outrages committed in the name of their religion.

They need to make it clear that Islam rejects the deeds of those who give allegiance to Islamic State. Terrorists want to cause division and sectarian hatred, and that would be a foolish trap for the French people or anyone else to fall into.

Belfast Telegraph

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