Paris Attacks

Matter of the Day – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:00 pm on 16th November 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Speaker 12:00 pm, 16th November 2015

Mr Mike Nesbitt has given notice and been given leave to make a statement on the attacks in Paris, which fulfils the criteria set out in Standing Order 24. If other Members wish to be called, they should indicate by rising in their place and continuing to do so. All Members who are called will have up to three minutes to speak on the subject. I remind Members that I will not take any points of order on this or any other matter until the item of business is finished.

Photo of Mike Nesbitt Mike Nesbitt UUP

I rise because, not for the first time, Paris, its natives and its tourists have been subjected to a most vicious and vile terrorist attack by religious extremists. To date, 132 are dead. Hundreds more are injured, many fighting for their life. Why? Because they ended the traditional working week in a bar or a restaurant or by attending a concert. It is hard to accept that, in 2015, such a simple act as shopping or socialising should represent an existential threat to life, but that is the grim reality of terrorism.

The House must take a firm stand against those terrorists, who, of course, are not just attacking Paris or France but represent a threat to the Western World and beyond. We must also demand a robust response. The Prime Minister has told us that, here in the United Kingdom, the threat is severe, and he revealed today that the security forces have prevented no fewer than seven planned attacks in the United Kingdom this year.

We must also remember who the enemy are. We must not paint everybody with the same brush. No Member of this Assembly should be held responsible if a high school in the United States is shot up by a white Christian just because we share the same colour of skin and the same religious affiliation. The enemy are the extremists, and any security policy must make that very firm distinction.

Today, we should focus on the human cost of the inhumanity of the perpetrators. On behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party, I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of the deceased and the injured, to President François Hollande and to the people of France. We stand together with them in defiance of those who have attacked our way of life.

In concentrating on the human cost, I finish with a quote from a restaurant worker in the wake of the attack. He said:

"One woman had been shot with several Kalashnikov bullets in her side, and she had a huge hole there, an open wound. There was nothing anybody could do. She was only about 20 years old. I knelt down and talked to her. I told her not to move and to take deep breaths. She didn't complain at all, or even say anything. She was just looking up at me and her eyes faded away. I will remember her face and her eyes all my life."

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to join in expressing our revulsion and horror at the evil bloodbath in Paris on Friday evening, and for organising the minute's act of remembrance in the Great Hall this morning. We, in equal measure, send out our sympathy and support to the people of France. We, from our experiences, can truly empathise with them.

This was not an attack against a military or government target. The gunmen were not engaging their enemies in open warfare, nor were they locked in conflict with an army that they opposed. This was an attack upon innocent, defenceless and harmless citizens. It comprised coordinated assaults upon a concert hall, a football stadium, bars and restaurants. These were attacks on people who were out relaxing and were enjoying an evening socialising or at sporting or entertainment events. It is hard to think of less threatening or less hostile targets.

Those of my vintage will vividly remember from our country's dark past all the emotions felt last Friday by the population of Paris: the desolation, the anxiety for friends and relatives who were in the area of the attacks, the grieving for victims and the apprehension for the future. They will know for sure that life will never be the same. The scale and the merciless savagery of the carnage will make these killings stand out, but, for all the victims and survivors of terror, every act over the decades leaves a life-changing impact.

On behalf of the people of Northern Ireland, we mourn with the families of the Paris victims and pray for the recovery of the many who are critically injured and scarred. From this Chamber, we extend our condolences to the citizens of Paris and the people of France. As they mourn, we stand with them in solidarity.

Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. On Friday night, like other Members, I followed the terrible events in Paris by social media, radio and TV, but I also had a running commentary because my daughter was down the street from Le Petit Cambodge, which was the first restaurant that was attacked.

I thank those who gave her and her group shelter that night close to the restaurant. In the hours since then, she has told me about the atmosphere in Paris; about how frightened people are, but also how resolute they are. In her boyfriend's circle, one young man was killed in the Bataclan concert hall, and, in her place of work, one friend has a close friend still missing. That is the horror that brings us here today in solidarity with Paris.

I will start en français: nous sommes solidaires du peuple parisien en ce moment terribles. Nous exprimons notre plus grande compassion à tous les citoyens de cette ville blessée. Geallaimid comhghuaillíocht le muintir Pháras ag an am chorrach seo, agus déanaimid comhbhrón ó chroí le muintir na cathrach cráite sin. We pledge our solidarity to the people of Paris at this terrible time. We extend deepest sympathy from across our community to the victims and survivors of Friday night's horror. We send our love and respect to the people of the wounded city of Paris, with which we enjoy close ties of history, heritage, commerce and community. Our thoughts this morning are with all victims of the global wars that engulf us today. Of course, the civilian populations suffer the most in those wars and are the most frightened, as we saw clearly in not only Paris but Beirut at the weekend. We stand, therefore, with the people of Paris in their message to the assailants who carried out Friday night's horrific attacks. We use the words of the famous civil rights song: Nous n'avons pas peur. Níl eagla orainn. We are not afraid.

Photo of Colum Eastwood Colum Eastwood Social Democratic and Labour Party

On behalf of the SDLP, I express our sincere sympathy and solidarity with the people of Paris following the devastating scenes that unfolded on the streets of the city over the weekend. As our party members gathered in Armagh, we were acutely aware of the tragedy that was taking place in the French capital. It cast a shadow over our proceedings.

I also express our profound sadness following the suspected ISIS bombing of a busy Beirut marketplace that killed over 40 innocent people. These attacks, no matter where they happen, the scale of the destruction or the culprit, are an attack on all of us who value the primacy and power of peace. As a people and as an island, we acutely understand the suffering of the people of France and Lebanon. We know what it is like to face the threat of terror and violence, and to face down those who seek to murder and maim their way to political goals. Today, we stand in solidarity with the founding principles of the French republic: the liberty to live our lives free from the threat of violence; the equality of all peoples, regardless of colour or creed; and a fraternal bond between all peoples and all parties committed to the power of peace as a tool for change. We are all united in the Chamber, across these islands and across Europe against those who seek to shake the foundations of our peace. Let that spirit of unity be the message that we send to them. It says more than anything else we could do.

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

On behalf of my colleagues, I associate ourselves with remarks already made in the Chamber. I thank you, Mr Speaker, for your initiative earlier today in arranging the opportunity for not just Members but staff and visitors to show their solidarity to the people of Paris and France in the wake of the multiple atrocities that happened last Friday evening. Of course, as has just been said, we should not forget the similar atrocity that happened in Beirut, the ongoing challenge posed by the atrocities being perpetrated daily in Iraq and Syria by ISIS, and similar actions that happened in relatively recent times across the Middle East and north Africa, particularly in Kenya and Nigeria.

France is one of our closest neighbours geographically. It is a partner and has been an ally. It is a business partner, a partner in times of difficulty and a partner in terms of where many of us first had our opportunities to experience life in a different culture. So it is felt particularly sensitively by people throughout these islands when they see the atrocities that happened in Paris — somewhere that people can associate with holidays and times of great pleasure for themselves.

It is one of the ironies of this weekend that, in 1940, and, indeed, again in 1944, Paris was declared an open city, so that not only the architecture but the people were left undisturbed in the opening and closing phases of the Second World War. It is a further irony that a friendly football match was being played in the Stade de France between France and Germany. That is an indication of where we in Europe have moved on in recent years, but where there clearly are challenges from those who do not accept the fundamental principles of human life and welfare that we do. Friday was a direct attack, not on any perceived justifiable target, not even in the twisted sense that would have justified the attack on 'Charlie Hebdo' earlier this year, but on ordinary people — Parisians, others from throughout France, visitors — engaging in what people throughout Europe engage in on a Friday night, the opportunity to go out with friends and enjoy themselves with whatever entertainment they wish. That is why it has so devastated so many people; that is why it has affected people so strongly in what that meant. That is the reason why we must ensure that we do not have just words but that we stand together in practical solidarity with our French neighbours, whatever language we speak and whatever way we express it. Whether it is in French, German, English or Irish, the message has to be of solidarity in the face of those who would carry out such terror, and a unity of purpose that we will protect human life and human dignity, wherever the threat comes from.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice 12:15 pm, 16th November 2015

I join in the sentiments of shock, dismay, empathy and deep sympathy with the people of Paris and France at this time. We in this Province, of all places, know the horrors of terrorism. The scale of the slaughter in Paris, I think, causes us to struggle with the question of how any human being could do such things. It is a question that had to be asked in this Province as well, because the uncomfortable truth is that the unmitigated evil that manifested itself in a theatre in Paris was the same unmitigated evil that lined innocent workmen up against their van in Kingsmills and riddled them to death; the unmitigated evil that launched an attack on a restaurant in Paris was the same unmitigated evil that attacked a pub in Greysteel or in Loughinisland; and the unmitigated evil that launched bombs to kill was the same unmitigated evil that we experienced in La Mon and, yes, even in the most sacred of places, a remembrance service in Enniskillen. Terrorists — all terrorists — are evil and remain evil. There are no good terrorists, even in retrospect. I trust that the people of France will have the resolve and determination to ensure that they will not pander to terrorists or fete them in any way, such as happened in this country.

Another uncomfortable truth is that the open borders of Europe, sadly, have the appearance of supplying a supply line to the fifth column in Europe that would destroy our civilisation. Europe needs to assert itself and assert control over its borders before more of this horror is visited upon us. I trust that that will be a lesson learned from this horrendous episode.

Photo of Steven Agnew Steven Agnew Green

On behalf of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, I would like to express my condolences to the people of France, particularly those families who have suffered directly as a result of these attacks. It is hard to understand the mindset of people who are so determined to cause misery, suffering and death and to think that, whilst we all join here in sympathy and sorrow, somewhere, there are those who celebrate those actions. That is very difficult to fathom. What is important is how we respond. I look back to the response of the Norwegian Prime Minister after the horrendous atrocity that was committed by Anders Breivik. His answer to the violence was that we need more democracy and more openness, but not naivety. That is easy to say and difficult to achieve, but it has to be our starting point. We must protect our way of life, but we must not do so by destroying it.

I have only questions, not answers. My fear is that the simple answer to the complex questions and situations that we face is usually the wrong one. We have to question how we respond. My party stands on a platform of non-violence. That is not to say that there should be no violence ever: violence can be acceptable only if and when it prevents greater violence. Again, I think that it is another principle with which we should underpin any response to these attacks. I do not believe that fighting fire with fire is the way forward. The way to mourn victims is not to create more innocent victims.

I wish the absolute best to those who are injured and in recovery and to the families who have been directly impacted by these attacks. I stand in solidarity with that wider community. This attack has had ripple effects throughout Europe. I stand in solidarity with all those who absolutely abhor terrorism.

Photo of David McNarry David McNarry UKIP

It is not that long ago that we in this House said, "Je suis Charlie" after those murders by ISIS. We in UKIP offer our sincere condolences and sympathy to all those who have been bereaved and saddened by the carnage in Paris. We think that we are right in speaking up for many people to demand that the evil perpetrators be brought to justice and that the horror of Paris is not repeated.

I note that COBRA has been meeting to mobilise national security. That includes us. I trust that our cities, towns and villages can be assured that they, too, are protected from attacks by ISIS just as people across the rest of the United Kingdom have that assurance.

Our best wishes to Paris. Let us hope that we can all visit it for better times in the future.

Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea NI21

Of course, we must send our condolences to those who have suffered and show our solidarity in standing with France at this tragic time. One of the key questions that we might all consider, however, which has not yet been discussed in this Chamber, is why it is that France has become the focal point of the ISIS campaign. Why is it that France is identified as the crusader whilst others are not?

I know that President Hollande will have been disappointed in the support that he had from some people when he wanted to take air strike initiatives. There was a vote in the House of Commons, and there was a reference to the United States Congress, but Hollande and France were left standing alone. That is why they are the ones who are identified as being at the point of this war. We, therefore, all have decisions to make about whether we are going to stand four-square with them and whether we are going to do more than just issue words and platitudes. We will have to consider what the right way forward is.

Mr Allister said that there are no good terrorists. I suppose that the rejoinder to that is that there are no good wars. What is the appropriate response that we all must make to this challenge to our democracy? There is a danger that there will be a knee-jerk reaction against Islam and against Muslims. The ISIS strategy is to divide humanity. Not all those people are bad people. We must find a way to show our humanity and our support. We must win hearts and minds. That is the way forward, and it requires cool, calm and calculated thought and not necessarily a knee-jerk reaction.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

As we all realised the scale of what happened on Friday evening, we were shocked and stunned at the events. The fact that so many people lost their lives is something that we should all draw on, as well as the pain that has been caused to all the families that are involved. Such an unmitigated waste of human life is an absolute tragedy.

It makes us think back a little to the 7/7 murders that took place in London and the 9/11 murders in New York, which emanated from similar sources. A little further back, we go back to the murders in Omagh, Teebane, on Bloody Friday, in McGurk's bar, and the Shankill bombing. These things are all the same; they all happen when someone else thinks that they have a right, for a cause, to go out and take other people's lives — innocent people's lives. Of the 129 people who are reported dead, eight of those are not innocent victims but murdering terrorists, and we must always remember that. Those people are not in the same classification as the innocent victims in Paris from many parts of the world.

We need to reflect on our policies. Mr McCrea and Mr Allister spoke about that from different angles, but the foolishness of opening up borders without having any checks or balances is ludicrously stupid. We need to be compassionate to people who are in desperate situations, and we need to support them, but allowing an absolute free flow across our borders without any checks or balances being put in place will inevitably lead to more people with a terrorist background coming into Europe. That is totally unacceptable.

I have taken my family on holiday to France many times, and we have spent many wonderful times in that beautiful country. Today, we stand with the people of France. Vive la France, vive la liberté.

Photo of Claire Sugden Claire Sugden Independent

I take no pleasure in joining Members of this House to express my horror and deep sadness at the events in Paris on Friday evening. I offer my sincere condolences to those who have been bereaved of those lives that were taken so callously by others. When a loved one is taken from you at the hands of another, the pain sears through your whole being and that pain never leaves you; it scars you. Mr Speaker, it takes a special kind of bastard to inflict that pain on so many. I apologise for my language, but I really cannot think of any other word to describe them. Friday's events were inhumane. They were carried out by bad people driven by a gross misinterpretation of religion and God. They have no place among us. I stand by the people of France and all the people of the world who are fighting against this evil.

Photo of David McIlveen David McIlveen DUP 12:30 pm, 16th November 2015

I, too, offer our sincere sympathies to the people of Paris today, who no doubt find themselves still under an immense shadow of darkness over the events that unfolded over the weekend. I remember that, on 26 June last year, I had the opportunity to go to a concert in the Bataclan, and it was a place of happiness and celebration. It was a place where people of all different creeds, colours and races gathered together to enjoy an event. For those who have not been in the venue, it is comparable in size and layout to the Ulster Hall in Belfast and has limited points of exit. To think of those cowardly, grotesque, inhumane people coming into the building and opening fire indiscriminately while the poor people who were contained therein had really no easy means of escape is just horrific beyond any description or explanation.

One of the founding principles of France was the principle of liberty and of freedom. This was an attack on freedom. It was an attack on those of us who believe in the right of each individual country and each individual people to determine their own direction of travel. It was a grotesque attack on that principle. The rise of Islamic terrorism throughout the world has spread like a cancer. There have been attacks throughout many cities in many places — everywhere from New York to Jerusalem to Paris to Beirut. We have seen it in London, and we have seen it right across many major cities in the world.

I find myself agreeing with what a number of colleagues have expressed today. With cancer in a physical sense, you do not talk to cancer. You do not persuade cancer to leave a person's body. You have to deal with it aggressively. You have to deal with it in the right way. We have to be very careful, Mr Speaker. This is not a war on Islam or on any religion, but this is and should be a war on terrorism and on the very people who threaten the liberty of the people of France and on the people who threaten the freedom of the people of Europe and the Western World. I urge our Government in Westminster to step up to the mark now and rally behind those countries that are taking a forward-thinking approach to dealing with this blight of terrorism that we find in our country at this time.

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Speaker

Thank you. I will make one point. We are talking about very emotional and terrible circumstances, and I regret the fact that one Member departed from what I thought was a very appropriate level of discussion and conversation. Despite the circumstances, I see no excuse for that departure, and I hope that it does not happen again.