On behalf of Fianna Fáil I would like to join in the expression of sympathy and support for the French people at this traumatic time. The response of President Hollande and the French people to the brutal murders of last week has been magnificent and inspiring. They have shown unity and a commitment to the values of free democracy.
In attending Sunday’s March the Taoiseach was not just representing his government he was representing all of the people of this country. We are proud of our long-established close relations with France and of the values which we share. The thousands that marched in Dublin, Cork and Galway gave eloquent testimony to our solidarity with the people of France and the families of the victims.
There is no possible justification or even mitigating factor behind these killings. They are the work of people who can only be described as evil. They have decided that they have the right to impose their fundamentalist interpretation of the world. They are seeking to wipe away centuries of progress for tolerance and respect of all religions and freedom of speech not just in Europe but throughout the world.
As we can see from the grotesque vision of society imposed in the areas under the control of ISIS, they are opposed not just to freedom of speech but to even basic concepts of liberty.
Let no one be in any doubt that the killers and their supporters represent no one but themselves. They have absolutely no right to claim that they speak on behalf of Muslims.
There are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world – nearly one quarter of everyone on this planet. These extreme fundamentalists do not represent them and they have a right not to be judged by the actions of those who carry out such barbaric actions.
In Ireland we should understand this better than most. In very recent memory there were those who carried out campaigns of murder and intimidation claiming to represent the people of Ireland even though they were rejected time and again by the people in free elections. We had a right to object when some tried to taint all Irish people with their actions and the same principle applies to Muslims today.
In fact, just as Irish people were the primary victims of the illegitimate campaign here it is Muslims who continue to be the primary victims of these extremists. The reign of terror of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and the areas of other countries under the control of different extreme fundamentalists show frightening levels of brutality and repression on a daily basis.
This extreme Muslim fundamentalism is a unique force in the modern world and democracies have a right and a duty to defend themselves against it. They have shown us how far they will go in trying to impose their values on us and we must be resolute in response.
It is clear that security agencies are struggling with this task and we should support a more comprehensive and assertive strategy. We must do this in full cooperation with other democracies.
We must also state that every citizen has a duty to help where they can. Their role is essential in making sure that these networks have nowhere to hide.
In doing this we must always remember that we have core values which must not be compromised. We cannot defend freedom and democracy by undermining them in our societies.
I think we should note the leadership taken in Germany by President Gauck and Chancellor Merkel in fighting the attempt by some to find scapegoats and abuse tragedies for political purposes.
Reports concerning the possible use of Ireland by terrorist networks are of great concern and should be taken very seriously. The government should make a statement in this House on what actions are being taken and so that we can all ensure that the necessary resources and strategies to track and disrupt such networks if they do exist.
The development of a more multicultural society is something which has enriched us and the entirety of Europe. It is the wish of the overwhelming bulk of people to live together peacefully and respectfully.
This includes being willing to respect the right of others to say things you disagree with and to use peaceful and legal routes to settle disagreements.
The extremists who committed these atrocities were attacking the foundations of democratic societies. They were not just attacking Charlie Hebdo, the police and innocent shoppers. Their attacks were not just on France. They were on values which we too hold as fundamental.
Because of this it is right that today we stand with the people of France and commit ourselves to stand with them and other democratic countries in tackling this scourge.