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Joint Committee on European Union Affairs debate -
Thursday, 26 Nov 2015

Terror Attacks in Paris: Discussion

I ask everybody to turn off their mobile phones. They should not be put on silent mode because even when in that mode they can affect the broadcasting equipment.

The tragic events of Friday, 13 November in Paris shocked the world. On behalf of the joint committee, I extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the ambassador. I thank him for coming before us today to talk about the recent tragic events. Brussels is just beginning to emerge from the lockdown that was put in place last weekend so it is important we keep abreast of what is happening at the heart of the Union.

I remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person or persons outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. If they are directed by the Chairman to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. Witnesses are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons, or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

I invite the ambassador to make his opening remarks.

H.E. Mr. Jean-Pierre Thébault

I thank the Chairman for his invitation today to discuss the recent terror attacks in Paris. It is a valued opportunity to engage and answers questions.

On Friday, 13 November in Paris and Saint-Denis, France was hit by a series of attacks orchestrated from Syria by the armed terrorist group Daesh. The scale and level of organisation of the attacks were exceptional and it is the worst such event in France since the Second World War. Beyond France, beyond the 17 nationalities represented among the 130 casualties and 350 wounded, one of them being an Irish citizen, the target was clearly Europe's security and fundamental values. The attacks targeted a multicultural capital, Paris, and struck at the heart of Europe. Daesh was targeting European security and European citizens in general. Daesh's claim of responsibility on 14 November mentioned two European countries in particular, France and Germany. Since then, it has clearly confirmed that all countries sharing the same values and orientations are its targets at any time. The mass attacks perpetrated by the same group in Beirut and Tunis exemplify that this terror organisation does not intend to stop but intends to wage a global and continuous war.

On behalf of the French people, I wholeheartedly acknowledge the mass solidarity and support of the Irish people. Together with the staff at the embassy and the French community in Ireland, we were overwhelmed by the huge friendship and shared sorrow expressed by the people of Ireland throughout all the country, in each county, each city, each school.

Attacks such as these only reinforce our conviction and determination. As President Hollande mentioned before the French Parliament last Monday, 16 November, our absolute priority is now to further strengthen the security of our nation and of the European territory, in close co-operation with our European partners and, at the same time, to contribute actively to international peace and security and the security, in particular, of all countries and territories affected or targeted by Daesh mass terrorism, by mobilising all means necessary to uproot the terror organisation at its very source. So doing, our action will be threefold. First, there will be a strong military response, in accordance with international law and principles, to an unprecedented act of war. As stated by President Hollande to the congress of both houses of the Parliament on 16 November, "the acts of war committed were decided, planned and prepared in Syria; they were organised in Belgium, committed on our soil with French complicities." An immediate strong military response was needed to prevent, as far as possible, Daesh from keeping the initiative. It was based on international law. Since its start our response has been entirely based on international law and the relevant provisions of the UN Charter. Article 51 of the UN Charter states, "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations".

UN Security Council Resolution 2170, unanimously adopted on 15 August 2014, already provided a legal framework to carry out strikes against Daesh. Since 2014, Iraq has been the victim of an armed aggression on its territory from Daesh which uses the Syrian territory to carry out attacks. Iraq asked for the help of the international community. The UN resolution condemned in the strongest terms what it called the "gross, systematic and widespread abuse" of human rights by the Islamic State, Daesh. It reaffirmed the need to combat, by all means and in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, this international terrorism and threat to international peace and security. More recently, UN Security Council Resolution 2249, adopted on 20 November last, provided an additional legal framework. In his speech before both houses of the French Parliament, President Hollande called for such a resolution to be adopted. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted this resolution. Its very strong formulation provides us with a new legal and political framework to mobilise and unify the entire international community in the recognition of that unprecedented threat and fight against Daesh. On this basis, France's armed forces carried out more than 300 air strikes targeting command and control posts of Daesh in Syria, effectively restraining the terror organisation in its moves and initiative possibilities.

A unique and co-ordinated alliance against Daesh, representing a united front of the international community against an international threat is, however, more crucial than ever. We believe there is a need for a coalition of all those who really want to fight against Daesh. This coalition should pursue the following objectives: avoid any ambiguity about who we are fighting - it is Daesh and the terrorist organisations listed by the UN and not, in any case, the moderate opposition; put an end to all forms of violence against civil populations anywhere in the world and, in particular, in Syria and Iraq where Daesh - a totalitarian organisation - is imposing terror and decimating the populations that have fallen under its control, with mass executions of opponents, prisoners of war, people of different faiths or orientations and women in widely broadcast, scenarised shows of madness; ensure that efforts are genuinely made to start the process needed for a political transition in Syria, according to the Geneva communiqué.

We want to build on Resolution 2249, which calls on all member states to take "all necessary measures" against Daesh and determines clearly the threat in the preambular paragraphs, "reaffirming that terrorism in all forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivations, whenever and by whomsoever committed". From that perspective, President Hollande has initiated a round of meetings with our international partners to discuss stepping up co-operation in order to fight against Daesh. On 23 November last, the President met the UK Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron. On 24 November, he met President Obama in Washington. Yesterday, he met with Chancellor Merkel in Paris. Tonight, President Hollande will meet President Putin. These meetings are at an international level but we also need to address what is a direct threat to Europe which requires a strong, swift and closely co-ordinated answer. First, by its mere nature and scale, the claim made by Daesh that it intentionally targeted the way of life of our countries is clearly a direct challenge to us all.

Second, we need a swift defence and security answer. As an immediate reaction in France, a state of emergency was declared and there was an unprecedented mobilisation of our domestic security forces and armed forces, which increased the number of our troops to 10,000, all of which helped boost the security of the nation. However, these decisions put special pressure on all of our armed forces, intelligence capabilities, the police and the gendarmerie. France can no longer be alone in taking on such a significant proportion of the commitments that contribute to the security also of all Europeans.

At the Foreign Affairs-Defence Council meeting, which took place on 17 November, France has asked its partners, on the basis of Article 42.7 of the Treaty on European Union, for two things. First, it asked for their bilateral support, according to their capabilities and international commitments in the fight against Daesh in Iraq or Syria. Second, it asked for increased support for EU or UN-led peacekeeping missions in places where the threat of global terrorism makes it even more important to stabilise these countries. Consensus about recourse to that article testifies to the solidarity among all Europeans. It is a strong and unprecedented political move commensurate with the challenges we are facing. We express our profound gratitude to all our partners.

France is studying all the possible options. We have initiated a dialogue with the EU Governments and in close co-operation with the UN, when relevant, on the kind of contribution they would be in a position to make within their constitutional framework. The confirmation yesterday by Chancellor Merkel of a strong German first military support in Mali is among the first substantial moves announced in this framework.

We also need to provide an answer at the level of internal security and justice. An extraordinary meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council took place on 20 November. The conclusions adopted accelerate significantly the implementation of the roadmap adopted during the informal European Council meeting which took place after the terrorist attacks in January. Those conclusions, in particular, address the following: the question of an EU passenger name record, PNR, with a strong commitment; the fight against firearms traffic; the immediate implementation of systematic and co-ordinated controls at external borders; information exchanges; the financing of terrorism; and the harmonisation of criminal laws regarding terrorism.

We need to cut swiftly and effectively the funding sources of terrorism. Let us remember that France strongly supported the adoption of the EU Directive No. 4 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing. The directive has been adopted and we now need to swiftly implement same.

All of this is going in the right direction but we must act even faster and deeper. As stressed by French Minister for Finance in the Eurogroup, Michel Sapin, in a special address, we must ensure that every country, especially in the EU, sets up agencies with the appropriate resources to hunt down illegal financial flows. We must centralise the data collected across the EU and tighten the co-operation between the relevant agencies and intelligence services in order to improve the exchange of information. We must adapt our monitoring devices to new technologies. As an example, 90% of financial transactions are currently operated through the SWIFT system and yet we are unable to monitor them. For the credibility of our fight against terrorism this has to be changed.

We need to act collectively to stop the recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters and fighting effectively the hatred propaganda, especially through social media. Last but not least, we need a global diplomatic solution. Neither our efforts nor those of our partners will have their full effect if the regional crises are not dealt with at a political level. In Syria, the political transition is the only way of bringing all of the Syrians together in a single common objective to secure national unity, the co-existence between all components of the population and the fight against extremism. In Iraq, the process of national reconciliation is stuck. Therefore, it is a matter of urgent necessity that the Iraqi authorities adopt without further delay the measures announced by the Abadi Government in the fall of 2014. In Libya, the rise of Daesh is fostered by a prolongation of the political impasse and the division of the country. It is a matter of urgent necessity that the Libyan stakeholders sign the agreement that was concluded under the supervision of the UN and establish a government of national unity.

In conclusion, the forthcoming weeks and months will be crucial. We count on the full mobilisation and solidarity of the French nation and of all European Nations sharing the same values. Last Thursday, 19 November, the French national assembly almost unanimously adopted the extension of the state of emergency for three months. It is a strong sign that these measures were taken with full democratic control. Yesterday, the French Parliament also almost unanimously supported the extension of the French air strikes in Syria, as requested by our law and constitution. We will express this solidarity tomorrow, Friday, by a national day of remembrance in honour of the victims both in France and abroad. I will visit David Nolan, the Irish national who was severely wounded in the attack in Paris, to express to him and his family our total support and solidarity. I wish also to express to Ireland and its people our eternal thanks.

I thank the ambassador for his words. A vote was called in the Dáil about two minutes ago and, therefore, I propose that we suspend the meeting now and resume at 2.45 p.m. A number of members have indicated that they wish to ask a few questions. On our return they will contribute in the following order: Deputies Timmy Dooley, Eric Byrne, Joe O'Reilly and Seán Crowe and then Senator Terry Leyden.

Sitting suspended at 2.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.45 p.m.

We resume in public session.

I reiterate the remarks of the Fianna Fáil Party to the French people, through the ambassador, during an earlier debate in the Dáil. I welcome him to this meeting and thank him for taking the time to not only attend the plenary session of Parliament but to meet with this committee at this difficult time. It is important in the context of the support of the European Union of its member states that we develop our dialogue even at a time of such great difficulty for the ambassador's country. I take this opportunity to again express my sympathy to not only the people of Paris but the entire French nation.

It is well recognised that the attack on Paris while specific to that city and the people there was not just an attack on the people of the city of Paris but an attack on France, Europe and the values and freedoms espoused in the French republic. We must all be at one in our condemnation of what happened. We now need to focus on how to address not only the fall-out of this attack but how we look to the future. To this end, there is a requirement on all of us to try to find a way or a path to eliminate the potential for the radicalisation of a certain cohort of citizens of our Union who feel alienated and isolated and thus the urge to participate in terrorist activity with such deadly consequences. This should not fall to be addressed by the authorities of any one state. It is an issue of which we must all be mindful. There are threats that exist, the origins of which reside outside of our borders, but we have a responsibility in so far as we can to address the threat that exists within our own borders. Taking a negative approach to migration or speaking out against the notion of accepting refugees, as some in the United States have done, is not the answer because the threat lies within. Perhaps at a later stage we can begin dialogue with the ambassador on what can be done to address the real threat that exists within our own pool of European citizens.

We are meeting on a regular basis with the ambassador under tragic circumstances. I thank him and his staff, who in terms of the many engagements they are attending on behalf of the French people, are representing them well. I understand President Hollande was in the thick of the attack in terms of his being at a football match at the time. What is most impressive and reassuring to us as Irish people and as Europeans, and I am sure to the French people, is President Hollande's sombre, respectful yet authoritative status as he projects to the world how France proposes to address this terrible situation. From a diplomatic point of view, France is reacting very professionally. I am sure that is being replicated through all of its embassies around the world.

When we first met I recall congratulating the ambassador on the brave steps being taken by France, on its own, to address terrorism in Africa. We recently witnessed a repeat of this performance in Bamako, Mali. I recall that at the time the ambassador was only recently resident here, the French took decisive action on a very important geopolitical basis.

The aim was to drive these terrorists, who tragically reappeared at Bamako in the last week, back into the north, into the desert and the regions, which made everybody safer.

Maybe this is not the occasion and maybe the Chairman will arrange a more detailed political discussion with the ambassador, but we are a young country, which is moving rapidly from a monocultural to a multicultural society. We have mosques now, which were not there when I was a kid. We have 50,000 Muslims and the census shows they are the fastest-growing religious group in the country. One has to be conscious that we in Ireland can learn from France's experiences. Could the ambassador teach us a lesson on how to prevent the ghettoisation of minorities? Maybe it is appropriate and maybe it is not on this occasion, but the word "Molenbeek" keeps coming up, time and again. Then there are the issues in Belgium. Should we start learning lessons from mistakes made regarding the concentration of alienated youth in order to prevent the radicalisation of young people in this country?

I welcome the ambassador. The main purpose of my words is to be associated with all my colleagues in expressing our sympathy and solidarity with the ambassador, our support for him, and our abhorrence of the shocking events in the ambassador's country recently. Paris is a very beautiful city. It is the centre of high culture in our continent. It has given us tremendous art, music and manifestations of culture and a beautifully free-spirited, happy, liberated city, which is also architecturally splendid. Such a desecration of the city and its wonderful, gentle people is horrendous and it evokes great feelings of sympathy and solidarity in all of us. That is the important thing all our colleagues want to say to the ambassador, and it is the reason I and everyone else indicated to speak. We are horrified by the attacks on his wonderful country and its great people, with its tremendous traditions in terms of enlightenment, democracy and liberty. It is a horror.

The first thing I want to say to the ambassador is that we all have to support a strong security response. We all have to pool information and putting resources into a mutually supportive response, right across Europe. It must also be an instant response. Any remotely significant intelligence should be shared and there should be absolute mutual co-operation at a security level. We would have to take a very hard look at the people who have gone to fight in Syria and who are understood to have become radicalised in that process and we would have to look at passports here, at security and at intelligence-gathering in this area. There has to be a very strong response in that sphere. The ambassador would be as anxious as any of us to have it on the record that we value our excellent Muslim community and it is not that we support any form of Islamophobia. The condemnation of Islamophobia and a desire for a very severe, stern and strong response are not mutually exclusive, and we should be unequivocal about that. The ambassador can take it that he will have absolute support from this country and from all organs of Government and State. Apart from the fact that we are mutually dependent in this area and we have a mutual interest here, we have an objective horror of what has happened to his wonderful country.

We have all extended our sympathy. We could talk about the cultural and historical ties between France and Ireland - our revolutionary past, and our shared views on liberty, equality and fraternity - and the dreadful carnage we witnessed. We are also conscious that prior to the attacks in Paris there were a number of other attacks - for example, in a Shia area of Beirut, where 40 people were killed. There was also the Metrojet flight in Sinai, which was again claimed by ISIS or one of its offshoots, in which 219 Russians, four Ukrainians and one Belarusian were killed.

ISIS sees this as a great cultural war, a so-called clash of civilisations, and it is all about division. It is about division and separation; it is not about unity. As the ambassador mentioned, now is a time for unity. They want to isolate Muslims from the rest of us. They want to stereotype people all over the world. They were not concerned in the attacks in Paris about whether a person had a religion and who they supported or did not support; they just wanted to kill people. There is an onus on us. We can talk about those dreadful scenes, but there is also an onus on us to talk about how we can come together and come up with some solutions to those problems.

One of the clear difficulties is that France was very much at the forefront of support for the refugee crisis. There is a cartoon that sums it up. On one side is the European Union with its hand up. There is a female refugee in the middle, and there is an ISIS person on the other side with their famous knives, about to stick one in the refugee's back. Does that depict what we are going to do in Europe? Are we going to stigmatise all those people who are fleeing ISIS? What do we do about this?

The French President, Mr. Hollande, is to meet with the Russian President, Mr. Putin, this evening. What is France looking to do? Is it seeking unity across the board, or to reduce ISIS's military capacity, which everyone wants to see happening? Is it also about reducing its potential support? The ambassador mentioned the jihadists coming from Europe and so on. Is it also about those regimes that have been quietly supporting ISIS in the background and those that are potentially behind the formation or the ideology of ISIS? When are we going to address that? There was mention of multiculturalism and so on, and there are ongoing investigations into what is happening, who is behind the attacks, and so on. So far, French and Belgian people seem to be involved. What do we do with the societies and the areas in France those young people are coming from? How do we approach and undermine this ideology that everyone wants to see eliminated?

I again welcome the ambassador and his colleagues, and other colleagues from the diplomatic corps. We extend our deep, heartfelt sympathy to him, as a representative of the people of France, the President and the people of France, and the people of Paris in particular. It is a very beautiful, peace-loving city, which has given refuge to so many Irish people for so long. It is a place of refuge, not a place of wholesale murder and mayhem. To the people who died, their families and the wounded, we extend our deepest sympathy.

Ultimately, we will have to solve the issue of ISIS or, as it likes to style itself, Islamic State, which reflects its idea that this state has become a reality. What concerns me is those who are funding Islamic State. The oil is being sold and the proceeds are being used for the murder of people in France and throughout the world, for example, the recent downing of an airliner. Without that funding, ISIS would not be able to carry out its threats to international peace and harmony. The region where all of this is taking place is a troubled one. The actions of ISIS will affect migrants and refugees. They are somehow trying to implicate refugees and suggest that they are a threat, which is not the case. However, that is the implication.

This is a deeply complex issue which requires a united approach throughout the world. It is regrettable that a Russian military jet was shot down by the Turks. This was not helpful in the context of the fact that they all seem to be working towards one aim, namely, to defeat ISIS-Islamic State. It will be a long process. It will not happen overnight.

Like other members, I wish to sympathise and empathise with the ambassador following the tragic events of the past couple of weeks. I accept what he said, namely, that the threat is not only to France but also to Europe and the wider global community. That is quite true. There must be a response to a threat because there have been threats from people previously, down through history, which, when left unchallenged, continued. It is Paris today, it will be London tomorrow and it will be Dublin some other day. Each city throughout Europe will come under threat at some stage or another. The ambassador referred to the necessary response in terms of security, co-operation and the exchange of information with a view to dealing with the issue.

The attacks on Paris were sinister and insidious in the manner in which they were orchestrated. I listened to the discussion about radicalisation. One must remember that those in Ireland who feel sufficiently radicalised to travel abroad and, for whatever reason, become involved in a fight in another country may have cultural, historical and other links but they also have choices. They are not forced to go. My point is if the global community allows this to continue indefinitely, then there will be a really serious confrontation of a kind unknown heretofore. My reason for so saying is that these organisations now have considerable wealth at their disposal. They have access to economic wealth which was not there previously and which comes from more than one source. The aim of those to whom I refer is to terrorise. They terrorised viewers sitting in front of their television sets. The beheading of prisoners in front of a camera is intended to shock and terrorise viewers. Those involved are doing it effectively and their behaviour leads to more of the same.

There is a serious danger that the European Union, the United Nations and the global community in general are not awake to what is happening. There is a vacuum in the Middle East in general. Unfortunately, the withdrawal from Iraq has left a vacuum, which caused the initial upsurge in this kind of violence. It is continuing for a long period and it is spreading. There are bound to be consequences arising from that.

"Liberté", "égalité" and "fraternité" would not be the watchwords of those carrying out these acts of terrorism. The individuals in question do not think in that way. They are as much a threat to Islam as they are to anybody else.

There are millions of refugees fleeing the region. They are fleeing from a variety of difficulties. One of those difficulties relates to the kind of trouble we saw in Paris only ten days ago. There will be more of these attacks. It is up to the global community to respond in a meaningful way. In saying that, I do not mean by carrying out similar atrocities. A classic example would be what is happening in Libya. Recent events in Libya should not have happened at all and there is every reason that the international community should set out to police what is taking place in that country.

My final point relates to the potential damage to the global economy. The global economy can be brought to a halt by activities such as we have witnessed in recent times. I refer to the downing of aircraft and the striking at holiday resorts and tourism businesses all over the world. The consequences of that will be considerable and it will not be possible to repair the damage in a short period.

I welcome the ambassador. Like others, I wish to express my sympathy on a personal basis. I also wish to express solidarity with the French people. It is good that there was a minute's silence in the Dáil to remember the victims and in sympathy with their families and the French people. It is truly horrific that young people who were out and about for the evening, young families and people just seeking to enjoy themselves were the subject of these attacks. Unfortunately, however, that is the way of terrorist attacks. There will be short-term consequences to these attacks, such as heightened security, the sharing of information between countries, etc., all of which are important. Does the ambassador fear there will be long-term consequences for France, which is home to people of many nationalities, in the context of integrating new arrivals, particularly in the urban areas where migrants traditionally settle?

First, I apologise that I was unable to be present to hear the ambassador's speech. I was in the Seanad. Like previous speakers, I extend my personal sympathies to the French nation.

What hurts France hurts all of us. What happened in the past two weeks in Paris and Brussels and the events which occurred in London some years ago represent a real challenge to the European way of life. As other members said, there is a battle to be won for the hearts and minds of all of our young people but there is also a need to respond. There must be a strong security response in respect of these attacks. Europe survives by being an open, multicultural society where people feel confident in walking the streets. That is something we have to protect and preserve. However, we also need to recognise that we need to respond externally and not only in terms of bombing ISIS. What we should do first is stop referring to this organisation as "ISIS". It should also not be referred to by means of the term "Islamic State". This group does not represent the Islamic people. It should be identified by means of the term "Daesh", as a number of organisations have suggested.

We also need to respond more generally by looking more towards diplomacy and securing some reasonable outcomes in some of these world conflicts. As another member has said, these organisations are getting money from somewhere and if we are to be serious about dealing with this crisis, there should be nowhere for them to go. We need to take this to a new level.

H.E. Mr. Jean-Pierre Thébault

First, I thank all the Deputies and Senators for their kind words, for their unanimous support for France and for expressing, at the same time, the feelings of the Irish people, the Irish Government and the Irish main stakeholders. This is very much valued. All signs coming from Ireland have a special value because of the traditional relationship between our two countries.

There were a lot of questions and I am not sure we can tackle them all. I would gladly seize upon the offer of one the members to engage at another time in such a conversation also. Unfortunately, we are not speaking about a one-time event. We are speaking now about a situation that will last. My Prime Minister and President have said that, unfortunately, this is the beginning of a war. It will take time and effort, it will need imagination and it will need solidarity to tackle the issue once and for all. That is the first remark I would make in answer to some of the questions.

What is at stake is not one response but the global response because if we do not act now, as many members stated, the problem will only grow.

Daesh was formed approximately two or three years ago and is already the wealthiest terror organisation in the world and by far one of the most organised. It is also displaying an impressive willingness to extend mass terror not only in the places it was originally born but also, more and more, to new countries. When it claims a caliphate, it is aiming at a very large territorial base, even if it is completely distorting what a caliphate means or what it meant in the past, namely, a place of civilisation. Daesh is distorting the word in the same way it is distorting the word "Islam" for its purpose. The aim is to establish, in the long run, a solid territorial basis, and to wage all-out war. This is why the aim of the French response, and the international coalition we are calling for and trying to bring about, is to tackle the cause of the problem where it is.

In so doing, we are thinking not only about strikes, our own citizens or the citizens of Europe. The first people we are thinking about are the hundreds of thousands in Syria and Iraq who can no longer lead a normal life. We have repeatedly seen images of mass graves, mass executions, women forced into a depraved way of life, children enlisted to execute prisoners of war, and people who happened to be homosexual being burned alive. Maybe we did not react strongly enough when we saw them for the first time. It is mass terror. If it recalls something, it may be the hate of the Nazi regime. Probably, all of us today would say that had we had the opportunity and known what was going to happen back then, we would have intervened before it became too late, before it was established and was too strong to tackle. Today, we still have the opportunity, by targeting the centre of command, training and resources, to weaken and, eventually, annihilate Daesh. However, a military response is not the only response. There must be a severalfold approach including the necessary measures at home and on the ground. We must also ally with all the countries under threat. There is a great need for a diplomatic solution. In my speech, I tried to stress the components of this.

France is very clear on the refugee issue. We do not resile from our commitment. We committed to welcoming 30,000 refugees and we will honour our pledge. There is no doubt about it. The question is whether the better solution is to open the borders more and welcome people who are fleeing Daesh or for those people to have the opportunity to stay in their countries - places they did not want to flee but from which they were forced - with their families and relatives. If we want to tackle the refugee crisis, it will also be done by acting in Syria and Iraq by opposing ISIS.

A member asked whether people became jihadis because they were alienated individuals who were not given a chance. It is a complicated question. We are not denying that in certain cases we, and many other countries, have not paid enough attention to or acted swiftly enough to tackle the problems that were emerging and this has exacerbated the situation. On the other hand, the people who performed the attacks in Paris were not alienated youths. The head of the group was the son of a relatively well-off tradesperson. He attended an elite school and received a subsidy for it. Another had a stable job working for the local government. He had no reason specifically to feel alienated. He had a job at a time when many would dream of having one. The reasons are not simple. We cannot say people become terrorists because they are alienated. There are no reasons to become a terrorist and perform such a mass attack, even if one has a dissenting view. There are probably other reasons than a feeling of alienation. It is too easy an explanation.

Members are right that we must not confuse Islam with the kind of fundamentalism that confronts us, which is an abuse of what Islam should be. The Muslim community is taking this question in its own hands and tackling it and is willing to say this is not Islam. This is a very important move which we are observing and encouraging in France and in many other European countries, including Ireland. Last Friday, something very important happened in France. Almost all the mosques in France co-ordinated to deliver the same speech, something they were never able to do before. It was a speech of tolerance which took a very strong stance against the existence of any possible link, even in dreams, between the imams' interpretation of Islam and the way the terrorists have abused the idea of Islam. This is an important part of the answer and it must be encouraged. Islam must not only be welcomed but encouraged to take into its own hands, as part of the solution, the question of the abuse of Islam. There are the official places of worship but there are also the social networks. We know the very important role the social networks play in radicalism and fundamentalism. We must all tackle it together at EU and national level.

The wealth of Daesh is a major issue and we urge the EU to tackle it swiftly. The fourth directive on the subject needs implementation. The first step will be to implement it as soon as possible. At national level, we have taken a certain number of steps that will be enforced by decree, due to the urgency. We are ready to engage in a very substantial conversation with all our EU partners to do even more on the issue. I have a document detailing all the measures we are calling for at EU level to tackle the precise question of the financing of terrorism. Unfortunately, most of it is in French, but there is a summary in English.

It would be useful if we could have a copy of it.

H.E. Mr. Jean-Pierre Thébault

I will gladly provide it to the Chairman. I hope I have answered the questions on the refugee crisis and the ideology when mentioning the work we have to do with the Muslim community, the role the Muslim community could play in this and what, eventually, we could continue to do.

There was a question about the international alliance and coalition and whether we aim to reduce the military capacity of ISIS in particular. ISIS has a military capacity and we need to tackle it. President Hollande's aim in touring the countries of world leaders is to ensure that there is unified front, that there is no escape for Daesh, that we will mobilise, in a co-ordinated way, our strikes on its control and command centres and, more than this, that we will target its sources of wealth. Daesh has taken control of a certain number of oil fields and, unfortunately, there are people out there buying from Daesh and giving it money in exchange for those stolen goods. Fundamentally, Daesh has stolen these goods from the people it has forced to flee as refugees or that it has executed. This matter must be tackled. Among the strikes, there will be strikes on the oil fields. We must sever any possibility that the terrorists will continue to be funded.

There was a question about Libya. We fully recognise that this question is not only in Syria and Iraq but is also in all the destabilised or weak countries which currently exist. Libya has been specifically mentioned in this context. This is one of the reasons we insist on putting attention on countries like Mali, which was saved almost at the last minute from the establishment of a Daesh-like regime. It needs to be further strengthened and assured in the long run. This is a major issue for the stability of Africa, which is another region that is very important not only for France but for all of Europe. We know the extent of the terrorist threat in Africa. In addition to Daesh, there are groups in this region that are linked to al-Qaeda and Boko Haram. This region, which is trying to develop and is starting to do so, is under threat from this fundamentalism. We need to help Africa to stabilise itself.

Questions were asked about jihadi returnees. We fully recognise that this is a strong problem. There is almost no country in the EU where this is not a problem. We all have a problem of some kind with it. We think it is something that we need to tackle by efficiently exchanging intelligence and looking at what we can do to prevent these people from threatening the peaceful communities to which they are returning, especially when they are actively engaged in terrorist action. We suggest that a severe security answer is the solution at this stage. It would send a signal to people who might see the returnees as heroes or examples.

Before I conclude, I would like to respond to some of the other questions that the Members of the Seanad and the Dáil have asked me. We deeply believe that the problem is neither internal nor external. All aspects of this problem are linked together. Daesh is not something outside; it is something outside which is engineering and conspiring against us inside. The masterminds might be elsewhere, but they are constantly exchanging and going in and out. That is one of the challenges. We cannot solve this problem internally only. We have to solve the problem internally and externally. Even if the root of the problem is external, it has consequences at home. Only solidarity among the EU partners will help us to tackle this issue effectively and swiftly.

This huge threat is probably unprecedented in its scale. It is always understandable that there might be hesitation, but any hesitation will weaken our answer. For that reason, I am willing to provide to the committee two elements on which I must insist. First, we have always considered France as a country that acts only in the legal framework of the UN charter and UN security resolutions. Second, we are very much insisting on the democratic support we need to have at home to take any measures. I know there have been some questions about the state of emergency and what it means. Are fundamental freedoms at stake and in danger of disappearing in France, which is a country of liberty? I think it is reassuring for everybody to know that these extra powers are specifically and precisely limited and can only live and continue under the close scrutiny of both houses of our parliament. From this point of view, it is also an exercise in and a moment of democracy in my country.

I will conclude by talking about the quality of the answers which will be provided by all the EU partners. This obviously includes Ireland, which is of great importance for us politically and from a symbolic point of view. The quality of the answers we are able to give as we fight and tackle effectively this new kind of threat will contribute to international peace and security. I want to reiterate Deputy Crowe's point that we are not just speaking about what happened in Paris. We are speaking also about the lives of the poor people in Tunis and Beirut, the lives of those who were on the flight that was destroyed over the Sinai Peninsula and the lives of all the other people who are still threatened by Daesh. If we do not take action immediately, without too much hesitation, the threat will increase and the death toll will get larger.

I thank the ambassador for attending this meeting and outlining the various measures that are under way to deal with this terrorist threat. I hope he will leave this meeting with a sense that he has received unanimous support from this committee and from the Irish Parliament. As one of the members of the committee said, what happens to France happens to Ireland because we are all part of the same Union and the same world. We wish the ambassador well and look forward to engaging with him again at a future date.

Sitting suspended at 3.26 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.