‘Charlie Hebdo’ and free speech

 

Sir, – Today, as always, the people of Ireland stand united with the people of France.

With thousands of messages of solidarity with France, the people of Ireland immediately reacted to the horror of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

Thousands joined the French community in marches, gatherings, vigils in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick. From Ballina to Cavan, Dún Laoghaire, Waterford, Wexford, Longford, Kilkenny, Killarney and Portlaoise, to name but a few, letters, cards – many in French – flowers and children’s drawings illustrated the deep bonds between our two countries and our people around shared values.

The barbaric attacks were aimed at making all of us fear, feel disoriented, disunited.

Together with the people of France, the people of Ireland have sent a very clear response.

Not only shall we not be afraid but we are ready, each of us, to rise and stand in active support of freedom, in support of our journalists and policemen, to fight for the values that are core to our societies.

Your messages, the support of President Michael D Higgins, the presence of the Taoiseach at the head of the republican march which gathered millions in Paris, the strong expression of solidarity by all the leaders of the parties in Dáil Éireann during a solemn session, the moving mobilisation of the representatives of all faiths at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, they all express the particular depth of the relation between Ireland and France, our common belief in the values of liberty, equality, fraternity and our joint commitment for peace and tolerance.

Je vous remercie de tout mon coeur. – Yours, etc,

JEAN-PIERRE THÉBAULT

Ambassador of France

to Ireland,

Ailesbury Road,

Ballsbridge,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Like it or not, this is one of the biggest stories of our decade. The images are central to the story and readers should be allowed to make up their own minds.

The decision of The Irish Times not to publish is based on a view with a very low horizon.

A thousand years ago images of Jesus were destroyed for fear these images would became subject to idolatry. Their destruction was not about image-making per se. It was about the perception of the use of such images. Hence we have the modern word “iconoclastic” (“image breaking”). These were fears belonging to their own time and are not fears pertinent to this time. “Iconoclastic” Christian and Muslim images on manuscripts are periodically on display in the great museums of the world. Everyone should be more informed about the meanings of images, both Christians and Muslims. Images should not be hidden and should be discussed, even if they are satirical scribblings.

I would have preferred if The Irish Times had printed the cartoons and justified it with an unequivocal defence of free speech.

Now I am off to my local newsagent to pick up the latest copy of Charlie Hebdo (ordered last week due to demand) to make up my own mind. – Yours, etc,

MARCUS McQUISTON,

Brussels.

Sir, – Your decision not to republish the controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoons was measured, reasonable and, above all, sane. – Yours, etc,

PATRICIA O’RIORDAN,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Charlie Hebdo is an obnoxious publication which seeks to give maximum offence to people of faith. Puerile comics are best ignored by people of faith. God cannot be harmed by the blasphemies of mere mortals. Tragically, this was not the approach taken by fanatics claiming to act in the name of Islam. When impiety and militant secularism becomes strident and when it scoffs loudly, the response of Catholics and their fellow Christians must be to maintain calmly, and all the more insistently, the truths of the faith without compromise. – Yours, etc,

Fr PATRICK

McCAFFERTY,

Crossgar,

Co Down.