The attack in Nice, during Bastille Day celebrations in one of France’s most famous tourist sites, was a gruesome assault on civilians.
The lorry swerved left to right along the promenade in a deliberate bid to massacre as many people as possible. At least 10 children are among the dead. Scores of people have suffered grievous injuries and the final death toll could rise beyond 100 people.
Around the world, people will be thinking of the victims of this unspeakable incident and hoping that as many people as possible who have been injured can make a full recovery.
We can repeat that this was a lone attacker and that little can be done to prevent such attacks, and those two statements are true (although it remains to be seen if there were enough police at an event that attracted such crowds).
But we must also talk candidly about the Islamic death cult that lures disturbed individuals to believe that they can cover themselves in glory en route to heaven by slaughtering civilians. This is, as the UUP MLA and respected military veteran Doug Beattie has said in a Tweet (below), something akin to a world war. The death toll, it is important to note, is not even close to those of the catastrophic two world wars of the twentieth century. But the toll is nonetheless horrific and could rise sharply, given the number of countries affected in what has become, in some respects, a clash of civilisations.
We should give thanks for the fact that we have, in Northern Ireland, an imperfect but established peace and an assembly that is more stable than ever post the May elections.
That peace enables us to be mindful of our common Christian heritage that was easy to forget during the Troubles, but also of the welcome fact that there are mostly excellent relations in the Province between the established populations and the relatively small immigrant populations.
There will be more attacks, probably on cities such as London. But with good fortune such extremism is a historical blip that will fade, and with resolve the world will get through it, as it has done past global nightmares.