Words cannot begin to express the deep sorrow, anger and utter dismay one feels upon hearing about the awful events in Nice today.
To think that a madman would actually consider, plan and then carry out such an act and turn one of the world’s most famous promenades on a night of familial celebration into a scene of mass murder is beyond my understanding.
I love evenings out in France because, unlike evenings out in Ireland where a crowd gathers, there is never even a hint of trouble. Our soccer fans may have cut a positive presence during Euro 2016 but the normal reality back home is a bit different. People in France tend not to get off their faces with the same depressing regularity that people in Ireland do. It’s one of the joys of French life – the manner in which they know how to have a good evening’s celebration without it even threatening to get nasty.
And on the 14th of July, the day of what they call the Fête Nationale (and what we usually refer to as Bastille Day), they do celebration very well. Every town up and down the length and breadth of this great nation gathers together some of their collected funds from their local taxes and holds a fireworks display to instil pride in their community and remind people that the days of argument, blood and slaughter are behind their country; that they can now bask in the freedom of Europe’s greatest republic, one which was achieved with such violence but now all the explosions are for pure entertainment.
That latter one was a memorable warm summers night with an enormous crowd of men, women and children packing the promenade and spilling out onto the beach. I imagine that it must have been a similar sight last night on the Promenade des Anglais: an enormous good-natured crowd of people coming out to watch the fireworks go off over the glittering the Baie des Anges.
At this point, there have been no claims from any half-witted organisations for this latest atrocity. All that is known is that the madman who carved out this disgusting footnote in history with the blood of innocent children and adults was a local – a 31-year-old niçois of Tunisian origins – who decided to fire on people as he ploughed through them during his 2km promenade drive.
So, there will be no more photos of scenes of carnage, panic and depression here; no photos or videos of terrified people, dead bodies or flashing blue lights in the Mediterranean dark night. The Nice I know isn’t interested in that sort of thing. They’re interested in conviviality and making the most of life in one of nicest parts of Europe. My heart goes out to all those people who were murdered last night and to the hundreds and thousands of relatives and friends that they have left behind; to the people of France, whose republic served as such an inspiration for our own; to the people of Nice and the Alpes-Maritimes region – a unparalleled place of sunshine, human warmth, art, physical beauty and wonderful food. I’ll be back and so will many millions of others. The lunatics won’t stop anything and they won’t achieve anything in either the long or the short term.