Hollande’s gratitude for NI’s sympathy over Paris attacks

French President Francois Hollande
French President Francois Hollande

French President Francois Hollande has written to the First Minister to thank him for expressing Northern Ireland’s solidarity with the French people in the wake of last month’s murderous attacks in Paris.

Mr Robinson had written to the French President to offer “deepest condolences” to the people of France after Islamist terrorists massacred 12 journalists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, before murdering a police woman and then another four people at a Jewish shop.

Mr Robinson told Mr Hollande that the people of Northern Ireland “stand united with the people of France”.

Mr Hollande responded with a letter in French — and an English translation — expressing appreciation for the First Minister’s gesture. He wrote: “Thank you for your recent message of sympathy, solidarity and fraternity at a time when France has just been struck a blow to its heart by an attack of unspeakable horror.

“Through this heinous act it is the authority of the state and democracy that has been attacked. Democracy means freedom of expression, freedom of thought, freedom of creation; it also means pluralism and diversity.

“France will not yield to obscurantism and I shall continue to promote on its behalf, nationally as much as internationally, our essential values of freedom, tolerance, justice and peace.”

In his letter, Mr Robinson had said: “We were deeply saddened to learn about the massacre at Charlie Hebdo magazine office in Paris and the subsequent events which claimed so many lives.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and also with you and the people of France. This was an attack not just on Paris and France but on democracy and the freedom of expression of people across the world.

“Democracy and respect must never be defeated and we stand united with the people of France. Rest assured you have our complete and unconditional support during this difficult time.”

Mr Robinson was not the only Northern Ireland politician to write to the French president after the attacks. UUP mayor of Craigavon Colin McCusker told him that the people of Northern Ireland “know only too well how it feels to have terrorists attack the democratic process and we share your pain and grief at this time”.