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Tolerant Berlin appears latest terrorist target

Inside Politics: Truck ploughing through market carries echoes of Nice attack

Guten morgen. Berlin has symbolised many things over the centuries - many good and, sadly, many bad.

All of the fault lines of 20th-century history seemed to pass through Germany's capital city: From the first World War to the perniciousness of Nazism to the physical manifestation of the great schism between capitalist western Europe and communist eastern Europe.

The Berlin wall was Donald Trump’s great big wall except it was real, and it kept people out and was not just a post-truth marketing tool.

After the wall was dismantled in 1989, a united Berlin slowly became a great city, a symbol of unity, and tolerance and new possibility. It has long been Germany’s most interesting city - young, tolerant, alternative and imaginative, a beacon for artists and writers.


Last night, over a quarter of a century after the wall came down, a truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin.

It appears to have been a deliberate act of terror, designed to foment another breach, this one between the secular west and radical fundamental Islam, with its sinister sociopathic culture.

Events in Berlin were very similar to those in Nice earlier this year. Like Nice, a civilian vehicle apparently became a weapon that was ploughed into defenceless people. It was indiscriminate and random - the targets were everybody, anybody; it was western society and the tolerance fanatics find intolerable.

We are used to terror on a similar scale here (and in Britain) where dozens have died in bomb attacks. You cannot begin to start comparing them or put them onto a scale of atrocity - all are appalling, all involve senseless death.

Is what happened worse than Birmingham in 1974 or worse than Omagh in 1998 or worse than the Dublin-Monaghan bombings? Such attacks strike fear and invite hardline reaction.They are actuated by hate and invite a hateful response.

There are connections here. Not direct ones but connections all the same.

The terrible horror wreaked on Aleppo is one - Syria's second city reduced to rubble, tens of thousands killed. Then there are the waves of desperate evacuees seeking refugee and finding only indifference or hostility, and other conflicts fuelled by fanaticism in the Middle East that spread like a cancer.

It is galling to think that Germany was the lone European voice of reason - that its chancellor, Angela Merkel, was the only one who did not pull up the drawbridge. She was also just about the only European leader who did not grovel or back-peddle when the United States elected Donald Trump as its leader.

Let us hope the horror in Berlin last night will not blunt the tolerance. You can see why this city was chosen as a target. Our Berlin correspondent, Derek Scally, has been filing ongoing reports on developments - initially it looks like the truck was hijacked and its Polish driver killed before the attack.

Here is Derek's latest report.

Elsewhere, in Ankara, the Russian ambassador was shot dead by an off-duty policeman who shouted "Don't forget Aleppo."

Life is nasty, brutish and short.

The debt of society

The two dominant domestic political stories this morning both involve political property, or maybe the lack of it.

Wexford TD Mick Wallace was adjudicated a bankrupt yesterday. Until 2014, anybody declared a bankrupt had to resign as a TD.

When Beverly Flynn was hit with enormous legal costs after losing her libel case against RTÉ, there was a moment when it looked like she would have to forfeit her seat.

There is a rich irony that the man who instigated the change in law to end the practice of preventing bankrupts from being TDs was, you guessed it, Alan Shatter. Wallace turned out to be one of those who constituted Shatter's political nemeses, with his constant sniping at the Government over its lack of engagement with the allegations raised by whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Paul Cullen has a fair piece, looking at the contradictions of Wallace: His passion for certain causes (many of them admirable) and his less-than-glorious financial dealings.

Across the Border, the scandal over an energy scheme for wood pellet burning is threatening to bring First Minister Arlene Foster down.

It has certainly skewered any notion of unity with the DUP. Jonathan Bell was suspended from the party at the weekend after saying Foster refused to stop the scheme when he raised it with her. She in turn has accused him of being a bully.

Meanwhile, the potential cost to the public purse will be about €450 million with whispers that certain people made a killing on the scheme (which offered ridiculously generous terms).

Sinn Féin pulled back from the brink yesterday and did not make good on its promise to ask Foster to step aside.

That has given a bit of slightly more elevated moral ground to the SDLP and to the UUP - both parties have been pressing hard on this issue.

Sinn Féin finds itself in a difficult position. If further investigations reveal real wrongdoing, it will not have the option of sitting on its hands.

Here is Northern Editor Gerry Moriarty's take on it.

Meanwhile, another issue of propriety. The European Commission yesterday published the full report on its decision that Ireland's tax arrangements with Apple amounted to a State aid.

The publication yields no substantive new information, but it is a reminder of how much of a headache this issue will be for the Government.