It’s a cliche, simply because it’s an important truth, that one’s first thoughts about a terrorist act should always be with the victims, to make some effort to imagine their plight.
For anyone even slightly familiar with Barcelona, the location of Thursday’s attack is terrifyingly easy to picture. A stroll from the Plaza de Catalunya down the broad expanse of the Ramblas, past the gastronomic cornucopia of Boquería market and the exquisite modernist frontage of the Palau de la Música Catalana is many people’s definitive experience of the city.
And therefore, one supposes, a suitably iconic target for terrorists inspired by the so-called Islamic State.
So this weekend, like so many familiar and unfamiliar places from Paris to Kabul, we have to imagine it stained with innocent blood.
However, as we know all too well in Ireland, it does not take long for empathy with the victims of terrorism to morph into political blame games, perverting the essential task of understanding what exactly happened, why, and whether it could have been prevented.
This article was published in The Irish Times on August 19, 2017
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