There are occasions which we must recognise as moments in history when we are confronted by evil

Speech by Alan Shatter TD in Dail Eireann on 17th November 2015 during Statements on Paris Attacks.

It is right that all of us in this House today express our solidarity with the people of France and extend our sympathy and condolences to those who have been bereaved and wish a return rapidly to good health to those who were injured in the horrific events that took place on Friday night last. The attack on Paris was essentially an attack on European democracy. There are occasions which we must recognise as moments in history when we are confronted by evil and we must have the capacity to recognise it and not equivocate. The cowardly slaughter of the innocent and unarmed by the fanatic warriors of Daesh, or Islamic State, can be given no other description.

This is not the first time we have seen such murderous activities taking place in Paris. In January, 17 people were murdered in the Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher or Jewish kosher market shootings. Nor have the murderous attacks been confined to Paris. For example, in 2012, seven were murdered in the Toulouse and Montauban shootings, including three school children attending the Ozar Hatorah Jewish Day School. Essentially, we are now confronted by a worldwide phenomena of radicalised Islamic fanaticists. In 2008, in Mumbai, 164 died. The events that took place in Mumbai tragically resemble the events that took place in Paris on Friday evening. Some 68 people were slaughtered in the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. In June, 38 died on a beach in Sousse in Tunisia. As other speakers have mentioned, 224 people lost their lives in the plane crash that took place close to Sharm el Sheikh, all Russian tourists. Only a short few weeks ago, 103 people lost their lives in Ankara in Turkey. On Thursday last, 43 died in Beirut. On Friday last, 26 died in Baghdad, all at the hands of terrorists.  In Iraq, it is estimated that in 2014, 17,045 civilians died. Deputy Coppinger is right when she says the highest number of victims of terrorism are members of the Muslim community, be it Sunni or Shia. By comparison in Iraq, 4,600 civilians died in 2012, an enormous increase of deaths in two years. We have had Bali, Madrid, London and the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States. We have had over a decade of atrocities committed by fanatical terrorists and, as we view the events in Syria and Iraq, only this week mass graves were found in Sinjar when the Kurdish forces liberated that town from Islamic State. Deputy Murphy is wrong about one thing. The Kurdish forces which succeeded in Sinjar only did so because of the support they got from the United States. The United States is not always the enemy as perceived by those in the Socialist Party. We may disagree on occasions with it but essentially, it shares our values and our commitment to freedom. Islamic State or Daesh, as it should be known, first emerged in Iraq. It is a mixture of urban terrorism and conventional warfare. Its hallmark is a nihilistic theology of intolerance that does not reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims, as so many people have said in this House.

We have heard it said on a number of occasions, and I would have said it when I was Minister for Justice and Equality and Minister for Defence, that there is a low level of threat in Ireland but this does not, in any sense, render us immune to risk. In an age of international mobility, our citizens are at risk when travelling abroad and we saw this only in recent days. Many thousands of Irish people will travel to France for the European soccer finals and we, like every other state who has visitors going to France, have a crucial interest in ensuring that these type of attacks are brought to an end. We not only have a European communal interest in co-ordinated EU action to confront and prevent terror but what could be described as a selfish vested interest in co-ordinated EU action to confront and prevent terror. I believe we must proactively engage to defend our European and Irish values, our way of life and our freedom, and not take our freedoms for granted. We must not succumb or surrender to an ideology that glorifies death, celebrates brutality and cruelty, enslaves women and whose objective is to foster division and hatred. We must also continue to recognise that it is this ideology of intolerance, death and barbarism that has driven hundreds of thousands of people to seek sanctuary in Europe and not turn our backs on them. A reinforced fortress Europe which leaves men, women and children to drown in the Mediterranean or to be tortured, beheaded or shot and buried in mass graves within Islamic State territory is no solution to the terrorist threat with which we are confronted. We must not equivocate or make excuses for fanaticism. Innocent people in Paris, London, Madrid, Nairobi, Mumbai, New York, Garissa, Ankara, Jerusalem and elsewhere are the victims of fanatical Islamic terror, not its causes. On occasion the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is raised in the context of the discussion we are having this afternoon, and that has happened in this House. The tragically intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict has no relevance to what happened in Paris, Madrid, London or other places mentioned. Why is it that those who say otherwise are blind to the murderous Sunni-Shia internecine warfare or the bloodshed resulting from the divisions between Hamas and Fatah? More than 250,000 people have lost their lives in Syria. Central to that conflict is a tyrant, Assad, on one side and Islamic fanatics, Daesh and the al-Nusra front on the other. Within the fragmented groupings opposing Assad, there are others who have a different vision for Syria’s future to those seeking a worldwide caliphate. Tragically, the divisions, rivalries and differences are such that bringing an end to that bloody civil war is enormously difficult but should it end, the threat from radicalised Islamic fanatics will remain.

What is required in addressing the difficulties are realism and an understanding of the complexity of the events in the Middle East and their contagion in Europe. When Minister for Justice and Equality, I participated in informal meetings of European Ministers for justice on terrorism. At that time I recall the Ministers in Belgium and France were particularly concerned about the type of tragic event that occurred in Paris on Friday night. There were plans to try to ensure a co-ordinated approach at European Union level to deal with terrorism. Within the EU we need to do better. We need an EU-wide co-ordinated anti-terrorism response. We need joined-up thinking in areas of internal and external security and greater intelligence monitoring of online communications. We need better exchange of intelligence between states and within states. I discovered, when both Minister for Justice and Equality, and Minister for Defence, that on occasions there was a lack of joined-up thinking between intelligence services within the security and justice area, and the defence area within individual states.

We need greater use of CCTV to monitor our streets where there are major vulnerabilities. It is used to great effect in the UK but to lesser effect in other European capitals. We need targeted interference of jihadi websites and other social media outlets.

Of course, we also need to tackle alienation and marginalisation in Muslim communities. We need to encourage educators and leaders in Muslim communities to constantly confront the sources of radicalisation. I believe the leaders in the Muslim communities in Ireland do not need that encouragement; they are already doing that work. I welcome the condemnation of the Paris atrocities by leaders of the Muslim community in Ireland. Members of that community contribute in so many positive ways to the life of our country and many of them have been proud to celebrate their acquisition of Irish citizenship.

More recently prior to the tragic events in Paris, much of the conversation about European vulnerability focused on the possibility of lone-wolf attacks by individuals. On Friday night we saw an organised attack that poses additional difficulties for European security services. Air power alone is unlikely to defeat Islamic State in the Middle East and end its occupation of land in Iraq and Syria. We need the sponsors of tyranny and sectarianism to recognise that bloodshed will continue until a rational settlement of the Syrian conflict is achieved. No one should expect rational engagement from fanatical Islamists who believe they have a direct line to God and the god they pray to has sanctified martyrdom, cruelty, slavery, death and destruction to achieve the unachievable goal of a global caliphate.

Anyone who doubts this should simply read the sickening statement of Islamic State acclaiming the onslaught on Paris on Friday night, celebrating mass murder of innocents. Paris is described in that statement as “the capital of prostitution and obscenity, the carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe”. Of course, what Paris stands for is what Islamic State most fears. Paris is one of Europe’s great capital cities. It is a symbol of liberty, equality, democracy and fraternity. It is a centre of art, literature, culture and vigorous intellectual debate. It is a city of tolerance which respects the individual right to religious freedom or to follow no religion at all. In essence it is all of those things that religious fanatics most fear.

I again extend my sympathy to all those who were affected by the horrors of the events on Friday evening in Paris.

 

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