‘Lives of women matter’: Sadness and anger at vigils across Ireland for Ashling Murphy

Women and men, young and old, gather together outside Dáil for murdered teacher

A crowd attends a vigil for  teacher Ashling Murphy outside Leinster House. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

A crowd attends a vigil for teacher Ashling Murphy outside Leinster House. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

 

There was a deep sense of sadness in the silence of the large crowd that gathered outside Leinster House on Friday, coming together for a vigil to remember Ashling Murphy.

By 4pm the street had begun to fill up, as women and men, young and old, broke from their daily routines to gather outside the Dáil. The crowd grew from hundreds to several thousand, stretching down both ends of Kildare Street.

Groups of friends came together; so did fathers and daughters, classmates in school uniforms, mothers pushing infants in buggies. Many held candles, while others carried bouquets of flowers.

The sound of fiddles drifted over the silent crowd at the start of the vigil, as some of Ms Murphy’s friends played traditional Irish music, something the 23-year-old teacher was known to love.

Musicians and friends of Ashling Murphy play at a vigil for the teacher outside Leinster House. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times
Musicians and friends of Ashling Murphy play at a vigil for the teacher outside Leinster House. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

The vigil was one of dozens organised across the country in the wake of the killing of Ms Murphy, who was attacked while out for a run along a canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly, on Wednesday afternoon.

Grace Corrigan, who grew up playing trad music with Ms Murphy, described her as “the nicest, kindest, most caring person you could meet”, who was “so beautiful inside and out”.

“You’d look over at her at a [music] session, and she’d give you a big wink, and have an even bigger smile on her face,” Ms Corrigan told the crowd in Dublin.

“This shouldn’t have happened to her. Ashling, we absolutely love you, and we will never forget you,” she said.

‘Turning point’

Orla O’Connor, National Women’s Council of Ireland director, said Ms Murphy had been a young woman with her life ahead of her. She was a teacher, a daughter, a sister, and a friend to many, Ms O’Connor said. “We’re angry that another woman’s life has been taken,” she said.

Ailbhe Smyth, feminist campaigner, said the young woman’s killing must be a “turning point” for Irish society, and its attitudes to women.

“What can you do but cry, at the loss of this young woman, at the loss of any woman . . . because of cruelty, because of wickedness,” she said.

As she spoke, some in the crowd quietly wiped away tears.

“The lives of women and girls matter, and men’s violence against women and girls must stop . . . the killing of women must end,” she said.

“The fear that we have for ourselves, for our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, the fear that this could happen to any one of us at any time, nobody should have to live with that fear,” she said.

‘Forced on women’

Among the crowd at the vigil, Rachel Cunningham (28), from Dublin, said gender-based violence was not a women’s issue, but “an issue forced on women”.

“We don’t feel the freedom to be able to go out for something as simple as a run, to be able to be out in the dark, to be able to walk home by ourselves,” she said.

Gabriel Cooney (67), from Drogheda, attended the vigil with his wife and daughter, and described Ms Murphy’s killing as a “shocking” event.

“I think it’s important that men show it’s actually not just a women’s issue, it’s actually more a man’s issue, because it’s about attitudes in society,” he said.

Vicky Masterson holds a picture of Ashling Murphy at a vigil held outside Leinster House. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times
Vicky Masterson holds a picture of Ashling Murphy at a vigil held outside Leinster House. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

Anna Heverin (31) said there had been “an air of grief” among women since the death of Ms Murphy earlier this week.

“We all have stories, we all know people who have been followed, or haven’t felt safe . . . it’s something we all feel very deeply as women,” she said.

“We won’t take any more, something needs to be done, something needs to change, because this shouldn’t have happened . . . Every single woman, the conversation we’re having is this,” she said.

People’s Park

A steady crowd of women, children, men and families filed through the gates of the People’s Park in Waterford city on Friday evening, where a candlelit vigil was also held. The park is one of the darkest places in the city, a place where many will avoid passing through after a certain hour.

One attendee, Michelle Haberlin, said: “We have avoided the night for so long, now it’s time to claim it back as ours. We can’t be afraid any longer. Tonight we stand in silent solidarity with Ashling’s family and friends, and with all the women around Ireland who are living in fear of the dark. I am a musician, a mother, a woman, and I say, no more fear.”

One of the many women attending was grandmother Teresa Walsh. “I’m aged in my 70s and I’m here for my grandchildren because I don’t want them to grow up afraid, or nervous of the dark.”

Her eyes filled with tears as she recalled: “In my day, it was our fault, that’s what we were told. At home it was our fault, in court it was our fault and that was a heavy weight to carry. Ashling was supposed to be the future, she was leading our young minds in school, this is just so devastating and upsetting. This has to change, this can’t be the way any more.”

Thousands also gathered at a candlelit vigil in Limerick city, where Ashling had studied to be a teacher. Local musicians played slow traditional Irish music airs as candles lit up Arthur’s Quay Park.

Natalie O’Callaghan, who attended, said: “A lot of women are scared going out walking, going to work, everything.”

Belfast vigil

Meanwhile, a vigil in Belfast for Ashling Murphy was described as a “watershed moment” in highlighting violence against women.

Stormont Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill made the remarks as she joined a crowd of several hundred that gathered in front of Belfast City Hall. At the event a small photograph of Ms Murphy was laid on the ground alongside a banner which read: “Her name was Ashling.” Dozens left bunches of flowers and lit candles.

Hundreds of people attend a vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy in Belfast. Photograph: Jonathan McCambridge /PA Wire
Hundreds of people attend a vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy in Belfast. Photograph: Jonathan McCambridge/PA Wire

Musicians who knew and had played with Ashling Murphy performed, before a minute’s silence followed a poem highlighting the issue of violence against women.

Ms O’Neill said that following the murder “there has been an outpouring of grief all week for Ashling Murphy and for all that loved her”.

She said vigils taking place across Ireland showed women demanding violence against them needs to stop now.

She said: “We are here because we are saying, ‘Enough is enough.’

“It needs to stop – the violence against women and girls needs to stop now.

“Male violence against women and girls needs to stop now.

“I think the sheer fact that, right across every town, village and county across this island today, people are gathering in large numbers to remember Ashling Murphy, shows that women have had enough.

“We are entitled to feel safe, we are entitled to be safe. We are entitled to go for a run.

“We are entitled to go to work and feel safe, we are entitled to go to the shops and feel safe.

“I think this is a watershed moment in our society today.”

Memorial events took place at a number of other locations in Northern Ireland, including Derry and Newry. Additional reporting: PA

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