France is still “the place of freedom” despite the terror attacks on Paris this time last year and the subsequent massacre in the city last November, the French Ambassador to Ireland has said.
Jean-Pierre Thébault said the big issue for all societies “including Ireland” was how to combat radicalisation of young people.
He said French stadiums were “very symbolic targets” and the necessary security would be in place this June and July for the European Championship in France, in which Ireland are competing.
Speaking on the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in which 12 people were shot dead, the ambassador said emergency security measures introduced last November had so far prevented new attacks.
His comments were in advance of a man being shot dead outside a Paris police station late yesterday morning in what the interior ministry said was a “potential terrorist incident”.
The man had a knife, was reportedly shouting “Allahu Akbar” and appeared to be wearing a suicide vest, which turned out to be fake, before being shot by police.
Mr Thébault said France had not changed despite the Charlie Hebdo attacks on January 7, 2015, the Hypercacher kosher attack two days later which claimed four lives, and the 130 people killed on November 13.
“More than ever, France is the place of freedom and the place where you enjoy life, so it is no different from that point of view.”
He told The Pat Kenny Show the only difference was security issues were taken with “more seriousness”,
A state of emergency introduced by President François Hollande last November is due to end in February, but may be extended thereafter, he said.
The ambassador said he did not expect it to last for the Euro finals, given that legislation is likely to be introduced before then to give necessary powers to the security services. He said there could be searches for the matches and greater use of CCTV.
Ireland play their first match on June 16 in the Stade de France where, last November, a bomber failed to get past security into the French v Germany friendly attended by Mr Hollande.
The attackers, three in all, detonated their bombs outside the country’s national sports stadium.
Ireland’s second match is in Bordeaux with a third group match in Lille.
Mr Thébault said that what happened at Stade de France was a “success story” from a security point of view, in that the staff prevented the first attacker from gaining entry.
“This is a very good example on how already implemented safety measures has avoided a major attack. Obviously, all those measures will be implemented again [for the Euros] in order to avoid any new attack on these very symbolic targets that are stadiums — be it stadiums, cultural institutions, its anywhere where people could gather.”
Mr Thébault said the major challenge facing countries was that posed by radicalisation of youth. “The question is how to efficiently fight a phenomenon which is happening in all our societies, including here in Ireland, which is radicalisation.
“How can we address this question of young radicals? People who isolate themselves, who we cannot notice, except sometimes, and through internet and social media are getting radicalised, that is a real threat, in addition to the terror acts themselves.”
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