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A picture of innocence, shattered forever

Saffie Roussos (8) and Georgina Callander (26) are among the victims of the Manchester attack
Allison Morris, in Manchester

A PICTURE of innocence, shattered forever by those who brought evil to a concert hall full of children.

We’ve witnessed more than our fair share of violence in Northern Ireland, and in many cases children were murdered as part of an adult conflict they had no part in.

However, in Manchester those innocents – like eight-year-old Saffie Roussos – weren’t just the victims. They were the targets.

Many parents had probably never heard of Ariana Grande until now.

The fan base of the teenage-actress-turned-singer are mainly little girls who queued up with pink balloons and barely containable excitement to see their idol perform.

The softest of soft targets – happy little children who know nothing of war or religious disputes but who bore the brunt of the most cowardly of attacks.

I have two daughters of my own and remember well the drama of taking them to their first concerts. The constant chatter in the car, the highlight of their wee lives until that point.

For those who attended Monday’s concert in Manchester Arena there was no cheerful journey home, only a night of terror that will stay with them forever.

As a parent it’s hard to think of a worse scenario. The chaos, the fear, the tears and the trauma.

Manchester is a city with close ties to Northern Ireland and a huge Irish community, many of whom came together in St Mary’s Church on Tuesday afternoon to pray together.

Parish priest Mgr Anthony Kay said the “spirit of Manchester” would never be broken and in the city on Tuesday night, as thousands gathered for a vigil in memory of the dead and injured, I had to agree with his defiant words.

Security in Manchester and other UK cities will have to adapt now in the wake of the attack.

It’s a situation we in the north were well used to – armed police and body searches, a visible security presence.

In a diverse and multi-cultural city there’s also the need to ensure this attack and the response to it do not divide and lead to even more suspicion.

As our own conflict and political process have demonstrated, that’s not an easy task.

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