Irish Muslim Council

Standing on the stone steps of the French Embassy — within sight of the Dáil —President Michael D Higgins joined the hundreds who had come out to pay their respects, remember loved ones, and show support.

As a minute’s silence drew to close, a long round of applause rang out before the crowd spontaneously broke into the French national anthem.

For some, the sound of La Marseillaise echoing around Merrion Square was too much, voices faltered and eyes began to well up.

Like the 132 victims of more than 25 nationalities who lost their lives in the Paris attacks on Friday night, those who turned out yesterday — to show what President Higgins called a “shared grief” — were old and young, French and Irish.

Sending out a strong message, Shaykh Dr Muhammad Umar Al-Qadri, the imam of Al-Mustafa mosque in Blanchardstown and Dr Ali Al Saleh, imam at Dublin’s Miltown Cultural Centre, stood in silence with the French ambassador, Jean-Pierre Thebault.

Dr Al-Qadri said: “These attacks are on humans, irrespective of their faith, irrespective of their background.

“These victims were our brothers and sisters, fellow human beings, fellow citizens.”

As the President’s cavalcade drew close, an elderly woman silently made her way through the crowd with yet another bouquet.

Handing it to an embassy staff member, she grasped the man’s hand tightly and whispered some words in his ear before fading back into the crowd.

A note of sympathy attached to the bouquet was simply signed: “From an Irish well-wisher”.

The floral tribute was placed into the river of flowers which flowed down the steps of the Georgian building next to candles, posters, and a small tri-colour which was signed by Chris, Saskia, Joshua, and Jamie.

Before the crowd bowed their heads in silence, the ambassador said the attacks felt like losing a member of “our families”.

He said those who were murdered were “young and elderly, women and men, the diversity of our nation”, who “fell victim because they wanted to live freely”.

“No to terror, yes to freedom, yes to life.”

Wearing a silk red, white, and blue scarf, student Celine Martin joined one of two queues which formed to sign books of condolence.

The Parisian said: “It was so soon after Charlie Hebdo in January, Paris was still shocked by that, it was a nightmare.”

After signing the book of condolence, President Higgins said: “We are here as well of course on this day in solidarity with the people of France and the people of Paris — a France and Paris that has always, through so many difficult periods of history, opened its doors to those people who are making the case for freedom and emancipation, for all of the important values of humanity.”

And as her husband spoke of a “shared grief”, Sabina Higgins, showed a subtle but powerful sign of support by placing a gentle hand on the elbow of the ambassador’s wife, Aurore Thebault — letting her know Ireland and Irish people stand with her.