Opinion piece by Pat Breen TD, Chair of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, which appeared in the Irish Sun on Sunday on 19 January 2015.
THE SUNDAY ISSUE
THE cold-blooded murder of 17 innocent people in Paris last week sent shockwaves through Europe.
There are now genuine concerns that IS fighters returning from Syria could carry out further attacks.
Pat Breen TD, Chair of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, believes Ireland has a pivotal role to play in making sure that does not happen.
The tragic events in Paris recently mayu have shaken France and the European Union.
But the response by millions of French and European citizens has shown that a terrorist attack cannot possibly destroy a way of life and the universal values we all share.
Our sympathies must lie first and foremost with the victims and their families. The attack on Charlie Hebdo, as well as being a barbaric act against editors, journalists and cartoonists, was also an assault on free speech.
The following day's massacre at a Parisian kosher supermarket, which killed four, was a brutal, cowardly and sinister anti-Semitic act.
Thursday evening's raid in Verviers, Belgium, during which two suspected terrorists were killed, has added to the sense of unease across Europe.
The silver lining in this dark cloud has been the extraordinary response of the French people — of all creeds and none — to this wanton violence.
Last Sunday, an unprecedented three million people marched peacefully with dignity, resolve and defiance in cities across France, along with world leaders including the Taoiseach.
France's Ambassador to Ireland, Jean-Pierre Thébault, has acknowledged the solidarity on display by ordinary Irish people in standing with their French counterparts in the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity.
There was also a minute's silence in the Dail this week, and the statements which followed displayed the strength of the solidarity with the French people from across the political spectrum here.
The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade has been playing a role at national and EU levels too, and has kept in close contact with the French Embassy and Ambassador Thébault.
A cross-party committee, which I have the privilege of chairing, has a diverse membership that leaves party politics at the door as we work to ensure Ireland's interests and values are appropriately represented on the world stage.
We always seek to encourage and participate in dialogue in an effort to increase the understanding that people of opposing viewpoints have of others' opinions.
The French authorities have acknowledged the intelligence failings that led to this three-day spree of horror.
As a committee, we are acutely aware that international cooperation on security and intelligence is all the more necessary to curb the risk of future attacks across Europe.
Indeed, I attended an international conference in Washington DC in September, on behalf of the committee, which explored how we can strengthen security and intelligence-sharing on both sides of the Atlantic.
The ongoing Syrian conflict and the rise of Islamic State there and in neighbouring Iraq, has heralded the phenomenon of the foreign fighter, which probably constitutes the biggest security issue facing the Union.
It is estimated that of the 7,000 foreign fighters in Syria, approximately 30 are of Irish origin. While these are sensitive potential threat posed by these individuals, particularly when they return home. New laws are afoot at European level to crack down on these foreign fighters and any moves to halt their movements are to be welcomed.
Ireland has also joined a group of nine like-minded member states, which aims to tackle the spread of foreign fighters by enhancing cooperation across the EU and with other countries such as the United States.
The committee hosted a meeting on Monday last with EU Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini.
It was an opportunity for us to feed our opinions and perspectives into how the EU can best respond to the terrorist threat.
Ms Mogherini told us that the idea of 'big states' and 'small states' is antiquated and she was keen to push the idea of a country like Ireland being 'big' in particular areas.
Our enviable track record in the fields of humanitarian aid, conflict resolution and UN peacekeeping means that we can and do punch above our weight in these important areas of foreign and security policy.
So I firmly believe that Ireland, in standing steadfastly with our friends in France, can make a meaningful contribution to curbing terrorism.
Indeed, a human rights-based approach to foreign policy is indispensable to halting the spread of radical Islamist terrorism in the longer term.