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Ashling Murphy: Thousands attend vigil for Irish teacher killed while running

Thousands have gathered in the town of Tullamore in Ireland as a vigil was held for Ashling Murphy.

Other commemorations were also held across Ireland following the “senseless” murder of the 23-year-old teacher, with echoes of the national reckoning sparked in the UK last year by the murder of Sarah Everard.

Murphy was killed on Wednesday afternoon while running along the banks of the Grand Canal in the County Offaly town.

Floral tribute left near the murder scene. Photo: Damien Eagers/PA

The murder has sparked an outpouring of grief in Ireland and beyond, as well as anger and disgust from another young woman who was allegedly murdered while going about her business in public.

Irish police had arrested and detained a man, but he has since been released. “This man has been eliminated from Garda investigations and is no longer a suspect,” a Garda Síochána spokesman told Irish News. Police promised to “leave no stone unturned” to bring the killer to justice.

Murphy was a teacher at Durrow National School and a musician. Her father, Raymond, told the Mirror: “She was just a special girl. She is the youngest, a little angel. She was a brilliant girl in every sense of the word.”

Ashling Murphy's brother Cathal, sister Amy, mother Kathleen and father Raymond at the wake in Tullamore.
Ashling Murphy’s brother Cathal, sister Amy, mother Kathleen and father Raymond at the wake in Tullamore. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

On Friday night, thousands of people made their way to Town Park on the outskirts of Tullamore, promising to send “solidarity and support” to Murphy’s family. Raymond Murphy and Ashling’s mother, brother, and sister—Kathleen, Cathal, and Amy—were all in attendance. During the hour-long vigil, people cried, grabbed candles and clapped softly as prayers were said and music was played. As the lights dimmed, traditional Irish music—played by Murphy’s friends and former teachers—was the centerpiece of the service.

Attracta Brady, who taught Murphy the violin, played alongside other somber performers. She described her protégé as a “fantastic musician”.

“She was the prettiest girl inside and out,” Brady said. “She was a parent’s dream. She was everything you could want in a daughter. She was honest, she was honest, she was reliable. She was quirky and a little sassy at times with the prettiest smile and she would get away with it because she had this beautiful twinkling smile.”

Friday also saw events in Belfast, Dublin and other towns and villages on the island of Ireland, with further gatherings and vigils over the weekend.

In London, a vigil will be held at the London Irish Center in Camden Town at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

“My thoughts tonight are with the family of the young woman killed in a truly shocking crime, her friends and her community,” Ireland’s Justice Minister Helen McEntee tweeted. “The gardaí will investigate this terrible crime and ensure that justice is done.”

The Taoiseach, Michael Martin, was among those who attended a vigil at the Dail in Dublin. He previously said the killing had “united the nation in solidarity and disgust”.

“The whole country is shocked and devastated by the horrific murder of… Ashling Murphy while on a run. Her family, friends, colleagues and the children she taught are in our thoughts this morning,” Stormont’s Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill said on Twitter. “Violence against women and girls must be stopped.”

She later repeated the message during the vigil in Belfast. “Male violence against women and girls must stop now,” she told the crowd outside City Hall. “I think the sheer fact that everywhere in every city, town, and county on this island today people are flocking to remember Ashling Murphy shows that women have had enough. We have a right to feel safe, we have a right to be safe. We have the right to run. We have the right to go to work and feel safe, we have the right to go to the shops and feel safe. I think this is a turning point in our current society.”

Kathleen Murphy told the Mirror: “The last thing she would say in the morning when going out was ‘Mom, I love you’.”

The murder follows the conviction of Wayne Couzens for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, as she walked home last March. Couzens, who was a serving Metropolitan police officer at the time of the crime, was sentenced to life in prison.

Last month, Koci Selamaj took responsibility for the death of 28-year-old school teacher Sabina Nessa in London in September. She was found dead a day after leaving her house to meet a friend at a nearby bar. Selamaj pleaded not guilty to her murder and the trial continues.

“There must be zero tolerance for violence against women,” Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar tweeted. “Really devastating and pointless. Every effort is made to ensure that justice is served.”

“It is alarming that news has come of another woman being brutally murdered here on our island,” said Nichola Mallon, SDLP deputy leader and Stormont’s infrastructure minister. “That’s why women on the other side of our island don’t feel safe.”