Dozens of French citizens, either working or studying in Cork, were among the hundreds who gathered last night in the centre of a city with French connections that date back centuries.
Organised by Alliance Française de Cork, one of the country’s oldest French-language and cultural centres, it was hoped the vigil would send a powerful message of support to those affected.
Alliance Française de Cork president Nora Callanan said she, and her French staff in particular, were terribly shocked and upset by Friday’s atrocity.
“It was a crime against humanity. It is contrary to all that France holds dear — liberté, égalité, fraternité,” she said. “It doesn’t seem so long ago that we were here assembled after the Charlie Hedbo attack. What struck us is that innocent young French people were having a fun night out, and were mowed down — people having dinner, people having a coffee, relaxing.
“It’s what we love about Paris, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, where one goes to do just that, to enjoy a coffee, to chill out.”
Patricia Mallon, honorary French consul in Cork, said French people have been expressing a sense of vulnerability since the terrorists struck. “A sense that they have been attacked now twice in 10 months — and they feel very, very vulnerable,” said Ms Mallon.
“That brings fear, but at the same time, there is a determination and a dignity and fortitude.
We have a large French community here in Cork. They are part of the fabric of Cork society, and Cork people have wrapped their arms around them now in their time of great need.”
Earlier, a steady stream of people called to Alliance Française’s Mary St office to sign a book of condolences — the same book used earlier this year following the Charlie Hebdo shootings.
Marie Bredillot, from Cork’s twin city of Rennes, who is on work experience here, and whose grandparents live in Paris, said it was heartbreaking to see her capital attacked.
“This has touched everybody,” she said. “They were all innocent. They didn’t ask for this. They just wanted to go to a concert to listen to music, and now they are dead.”
Irene Corkery, from Blackrock, whose husband is a French teacher, was among the first to sign it.
“I think it’s important for the rest of the world to show French people that we are by their side, thinking of them at this time,” she said. “I have visited Paris several times, sat in the cafes, relaxed and enjoyed everything, and I was just shocked when I heard what had happened.”
The French tricolour flew at half mast alongside the Irish flag over City Hall as Lord Mayor Chris O’Leary opened a book of condolences in the civic offices.
The book of condolences will remain open for two weeks and will be presented to the French ambassador.
Margaret Crowley, from Douglas, whose son, Pat, a UCC lecturer, his wife, Siobhan, and their daughter, Bríona, 10, were in Paris on Friday, said she was shocked and frightened when word of the attacks began to filter through on Friday.
However, she said, they managed to get word through to her quickly that they were safe.