France is yet again in mourning after the horrific attack in Nice on Bastille Day, which left at least 84 people dead and 200 injured. One Irish man was left in a critical condition but has since stabilised.
The motive for the attack is still unclear, even though ISIS has claimed that it inspired it.
There have been contradictory reports about the assailant, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who is not thought to have been radicalised. So far, there is nothing to verify that this was an extremist attack. His intention was to kill as many people as possible, but probably not on behalf of any militant organisation.
Regardless, his actions will be a cause of alarm for security officials. Even in France’s state of emergency, which has been extended by at least three months, the nature of the attack was unprecedented. Weaponising a truck infringes grossly on our freedom to travel and celebrate public events in other countries.
Security will become more of a hassle than it already is for tourists, with heightened levels of anxiety and more pressure on already overworked gendarme and military officials. Armed police will have a more visible presence, which will unsettle some visitors. It will be enough to convince many people to defer their travel plans and stay at home—even Irish citizens, who are among the most well-travelled in Europe.
But who benefits from that kind of reaction? We must defy barbarism by properly evaluating risk. We should not let fear unnecessarily dictate our freedom to explore the world.
Around 200 Irish people die abroad each year. Even in light of Thursday’s awful tragedy, travellers are still more likely to die from things that would have killed them at home anyway, such as underlying heart conditions, rather than murder.
We should travel with the same amount of precaution as ever: Follow travel advice given by the Department of Foreign Affairs; be aware of local laws and customs; have an emergency contact for the nearest Irish or EU embassy; and make sure you have bought travel insurance.
Be wary, as well, of reports from mainstream media. Many outlets were quick to report the attack as an act of terror, even before there was enough information to verify the assailant’s motives.
According to UNWTO figures, France is the world’s most popular travel destination. And rightly so. There is so much to love about France, so why should we let an act of hate control our desire to visit it?