VIDEO: Anger and sadness on streets of Belfast over Charlie Hebdo massacre

A solidarity vigil was held on Thursday for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, with one DUP attendee suggesting Belfast City Hall should fly the tricolore as a mark of respect.

Guy Spence said that the French flag could be displayed at half-mast to honour the 12 people murdered in an attack on the satirical Paris publication on Wednesday.

John O'Farrell ICTU, Jim McDowell editor of the Sunday World (which had a journalist murdered by terrorists), Ulster Unionist councillor Jeff Dudgeon, News Letter Deputy editor Ben Lowry

John O'Farrell ICTU, Jim McDowell editor of the Sunday World (which had a journalist murdered by terrorists), Ulster Unionist councillor Jeff Dudgeon, News Letter Deputy editor Ben Lowry

Others in attendance included a Northern Irish political cartoonist, who declared that the bloodbath demonstrates the power of satire.

Roughly 30 to 40 gathered at the gates of City Hall at 1pm, with a handful of police officers close by.

Many held signs in French reading “I AM CHARLIE”, while a minute’s silence was observed.

As well as editors and members of National Union of Journalists (NUJ), a number of those in attendance had no connection to the press, and said they had simply wanted to stand up against extremism – including one Muslim Algerian.

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International takes part in a vigil organised by journalists at City Hall, Belfast today in memory of those killed in the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in Paris yesterday

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International takes part in a vigil organised by journalists at City Hall, Belfast today in memory of those killed in the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in Paris yesterday

Councillor Spence, DUP representative for the Castle Ward, said: “I’d said to a few of my colleagues that maybe one of the things we could do as a council, as a city, would be to fly the French flag at half-mast to show solidarity with the French people, and the Parisians who have been affected and been caught up in this devastating act of terror.”

Asked what the overarching message of the demonstration was, he said: “I think locally what we have all sent out, and what this city has sent out today, is that we stand with the Parisians affected (and) we stand with their families.”

Part of the motivation for the attack is thought to be irreverent cartoons about Islam Charlie Hebdo had printed.

Ian Knox, cartoonist for The Irish News, said of the atrocity: “Obviously in one sense it inflates the importance of satire.

“Obviously if these people thought satire was irrelevant they wouldn’t have carried out the acts they did.”

The 71-year-old Co Down -based man, who has also worked for TV series Hearts and Minds, said: “Fundamentalist mindsets feel much more threatened by satire than do liberal democracies.

“They do not feel threatened by censure, or threats, or by hostility.

“They are extremely vulnerable, though, to ridicule.”

Asked what he feels the response should be, he said: “To let rip. To draw cartoons of Mohammed the Prophet in every newspaper. To reproduce all these cartoons again and again and again.

“I think these people [violent Islamic extremists] will attack anyway...

“Maybe I’m overly sensitive at the minute, but I feel out of solidarity for those who had the courage to stand up for free speech , we need to come in behind them – and a faint-hearted attitude will not help anyone.”

Bob Miller, chairman of the Belfast branch of the NUJ , said: “Many demonstrations in support of our fallen colleagues in Paris have been held in Cork, Limerick, Dublin, Derry, Belfast. At such short notice, we’ve had a tremendous turn-out today.”

The 58-year-old Antrim man said his gut reaction on hearing the news of the shootings said he was “horrified”, but fears that there will be repeat attacks on journalists.

He said: “They don’t carry guns, all they carry is a pen, a pencil, a phone. They’re easy targets.”

Drew Millar, a 60-year-old self-employed IT worker from south Belfast, had no media connections at all but was simply left him “lost for words,” by the murders – mentioning particularly the elderly nature of some of the victims ( the oldest of which was Georges Wolinski, aged 80).

He told the News Letter “In my six decades here in Northern Ireland I’ve seen more than enough tragedy caused by religious fundamentalism, and people pretending to act on behalf of their religion”.

He added: “It just appals me what happened yesterday in the same name, for a different religion, in France.”

Dierdre Mac Bride and Dympna McGlade were also among those in attendance.

Ms Mac Bride, an east Belfast charity worker in her 50s, said that her attendance was not simply about backing freedom of expression, but also “to stand up against this world becoming polarised”.

Ms McGlade, 57, working at the same charity and from Newtownabbey, stood alongside her and said: “It’s important we support the people of Paris at this time ,when things can become quite tense, to ensure good relations, and promoting reconciliation between all the communities that live there.”