Jean-Pierre Thébault, the French ambassador, has paid tribute to the solidarity and support expressed by Ireland in the wake of the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris in January.
Mr Thébault said the strength of the Franco-Irish relationship was shown by Irish people through their expressions of sympathy, the condolence books signed by people across the State, the presence of President Michael D Higgins at the French embassy, Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s participation at the march in Paris, and the marches of solidarity across Ireland.
Mr Thébault was speaking at the opening of the 24th annual Parnell Summer School, where the theme is “The French Connection – Ireland and France”. He said the support was probably because what was at stake “were the very values of decency, respect and freedom cherished by both our people”.
It was a reflection of “our common view of what we are willing not only to respect, but also to protect and fight for as our forefathers did”, he said at the gathering in Avondale, Co Wicklow. What had happened “has been experienced as a wake-up call”.
Mr Thébault said that in a world of reinforced complexity, “our nations and Europe as the common projects of our nations must hold onto our core values,” held for centuries.
These core values had informed and continue to inform most of the progressive nationals and people in the world.
“Freedom, both political and media freedom, are at the core of this,” he said. “We must never take them for granted and we must challenge all forces and actions which could tend to weaken them and gradually diminish them. Freedom is a constant commitment.”
The ambassador concluded his remarks by paraphrasing Charles Stewart Parnell that “no force, no individual has the right to fix a boundary to the freedom of a nation, to freedom itself”.
At the summer school, Ireland’s literary, political, cultural and historical connections with France are under discussion. Academics and experts from Ireland, Britain, France and the US are participating in the five-day event.