Wexford student joins Parish march after terror attacks
Cian Ryan, the son of Wexford former mayor and councillor, schoolteacher Joe Ryan and his wife Theresa, was one the 1.6 million people who marched on the streets of Paris on Sunday in solidarity with the victims of last week's terrorist attacks in which 17 people were murdered.
'France and Paris were on their knees a few days, now, after the march, they are getting back to normal,' said Cian, who is studying in Paris at the University of Nanterres, a few miles from where the Kouachi brothers killed 12 people at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last Wednesday.
'No-one knew what was happening, it was worrying. The French were shocked, especially the students,' said 20-year-old Cian, the eldest of five children.
'It was so tense and for a few hours.. even in the evening, it took some time before everybody understood,' said Cian, a former student of Wexford CBS, who is studying at UCC and is on an Erasmus year in Paris.
He said that on 12 noon Thursday, a minute's silence was called in the university where he was sitting exams, mirroring others held throughout the country.
'I've never heard a silence like it before.. you could have heard a pin drop,' he said. Later on Thursday, a French policewoman was shot in the back and killed. At first, authorities did not link this incident to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
Worrying as it was, there was another huge shock on Friday when the next attack took place on a kosher supermarket in Vincennes, with a gunman taking hostages, including women and children, four of whom were later found out to have been killed.
With the capital at its highest state of alert in many years, and two sieges under way, an unclaimed bag at the university library sparked a major alert, with four police cars and eight heavily-armed officers and members of a bomb-disposal unit entering the building.
Cian and other students were escorted from the library by armed policemen before the all-clear was given, although given the uncertainty about what was going on, it felt anything but safe as policemen in combat gear patrolled the campus and stopped and questioned students, including Cian, about who they were and where were they going.
'On the one side it was paranoia and on the other it was a necessary precuation.
'It made me realise what was happening. Hostages had just been taken and, at the time, it felt like it was just going to keep going and going, you can never rule out anything,' he told this newspaper.
Cian said that while the armed police were there to protect the people of Paris, he found their presence unsettling.
'I didn't feel there was a threat where I was, but you can never be too sure.' He said that with things so uncertain and given that there could be more attacks, he didn't want to leave his room while the attacks and sieges were taking place, but this changed by the weekend.
'Coming from Ireland, you are not used to seeing guns on the streets, you see things like this on the news. Until you are there yourself, you don't understand the impact it has.'
Cian said there was a collective sigh of relief when the three terrorists were shot dead by police later on Friday, with plans for Sunday's mass solidarity marches gathering pace, university students among the huge numbers who turned out for what turned out to be the biggest ever mass march in the French capital.
On Sunday, I made it to the march and got to hear some of the victims' families, they were so brave given what had happened.. I saw a few of the Charlie Hebdo staff and the Jewish families, relatives of people who were killed.. everyone was clapping.
'I was carrying a 'solidarity' poster and when people realised I wasn't French they were thanking me for being there.. but there were so many flags from many countries and where I was there was a high proportion of Moslems.. they wanted people to know what what happened doesn't represent their religion, they had posters like "Not in My Name' and "I am a Moslem, I am Charlie",' he said.