Why we must show solidarity with those being murdered simply for being Jewish
I am not a Jew. But I have many Jewish friends. I can't pretend to know what they must they have felt over the past week watching those murderous events unfold in Paris. But I can imagine.
Here in the UK, where we've reached the point that a prominent Westminster politician, William Hague, now feels he has to publicly urge Jews not to leave the UK because the "government and the security agencies" are working hard to "keep everyone safe", the picture is hardly a whole lot more comforting. The very fact that such official reassurance is deemed necessary is, in itself pretty frightening.
And let's be honest, more than any other people on earth, Europe's Jews have reasons to fear for their safety. Six million reasons to be precise. Exactly 70 years ago this month (on January 27), Soviet troops liberated the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. "Never Again" cries the sign on the memorial at another death camp at Dachau.
But if ever there was a chilling echo of the blind hatred and barbarism that led to the Holocaust, it was surely huddled in that freezer room in the Paris kosher supermarket last week amid the men, women and children clinging together in terror as a madman rampaged above them, gunning down four innocent men.
Simply because they were Jews.
In this instance the killer was an Islamic terrorist. Yet Islamic "extremists" who've been "radicalised" (to use those modern terms that downplay and sanitise bloody racist carnage) are far from the only threats to the Jews of Europe.
They are targeted throughout the continent by "extremists" on the far right, too. And by the vitriol of those plentiful anti-Semites who would style themselves as the "liberal" left but who are as malign in their hearts as the cheerleaders of 1930s Germany.
All this hatred of the Jews. We can't blame it all on Isis. Public figures call on Muslim leaders to speak out against the extremists. But what about the rest of us?
Horrifically, throughout Europe today it is as if all the lessons learned and promises sworn in those bleak days 70 years ago when the full scale and horror of the Holocaust were laid bare before the entire world have been forgotten.
The Holocaust is trivialised and even turned against the Jews, frequently reduced to a glib jibe about Gaza.
How do you ever convey to a new generation the enormity of what Jews suffered in Europe? I remember listening to a Jewish speaker a few years after 9/11 when the savage massacre of more than 3,000 human beings on that one terrible day was still so raw in our minds.
Imagine, he said, that this happened every single day. Day in, day out. For over five years ...
"Never again", says that sign in Dachau. But once again the Jews of Europe are in peril - in the front line of attack from so many sides.
Thousands fled France last year. France that has the third largest Jewish population in the world after Israel and America. Throughout 21st century Europe, Jews are targeted with violence and abuse. Even in the UK - even in Northern Ireland - there have been attacks on synagogues.
France without its French Jews is not France, the prime minister of that nation recently declared. Europe without its Jews is unthinkable.
I am not a great fan of slogan campaigns, but with all my heart I am with those who were murdered for their journalism in the office of Charlie Hebdo. I have some small knowledge of what it is like when someone you love is threatened because of what they write. So, yes, Je Suis Charlie.
But equally, maybe more importantly, I believe it is imperative in these dangerous days that those of us who are not Jewish stand now, show solidarity with those still being murdered in Europe in 2015 - simply for being Jewish.
Je Suis Juif.
A brave politician who’s worth a vote
At last a politician I feel I can vote for. The brilliant and brave Jeff Dudgeon has been selected as one of two potential UUP candidates to run for the South Belfast seat in the May elections.
This is a man who took on the might (and it really was the might) of the establishment back in the 1970s when he campaigned for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
Dudgeon is not a man you can easily pigeonhole.
I liked his self-description — in an interview with Rebecca Black for this paper — that he is “a liberal of sorts and progressive in many areas, although not all”.
He is a good man. He’d get my vote.
Stephanie’s net gain for women
Fair play to the gorgeous Stephanie Roche who so very nearly beat the boys at their own game by coming runner-up in the FIFA award for best goal.
Stephanie, who scored when she played for Peamount United against Wexford before a crowd of 95, was beaten in the prestigious global competition by Colombian James Rodriguez.
But what a result for the Irish girl (as the footie commentators might say.) What a result for the girls. Stephanie won her place in the contest through skill, not as a sop to female players. She may not have lifted the gong on the night. But in terms of winning respect for female players — back of the net.