Emotional scenes as Cork gathers to honour memory of Ashling Murphy

Emotional scenes as Cork gathers to honour memory of Ashling Murphy

A sea of people gathered this morning at the Atlantic Pond to remember Ashling Murphy, who was tragically killed while out running in Tullamore, Co Offaly earlier this week.

Members of the public, young and old, paid their respects to the 23-year-old teacher. The candles they laid at the base of a tree didn’t even flicker in the still morning air.

The hushed crowd marched in procession around a glass-smooth Atlantic Pond.

Music lilted along the Lee, as people gathered around a group of trad musicians, who paused for a mournful rendition of the Parting Glass.

Parents explained to their children, as best they could, the meaning of a sign which said ‘Women’s Lives Matter’.

“The whole thing is just so moving and upsetting, every woman should be able to go out without fear,” said Claire O’Connor, who came out to pay tribute to Ashling with her friend and dog.

Ms O’Connor said that while women shouldn’t have to change their behaviour to be safer, she can’t help but be more cautious in how she lives her life.

“What happened to Ashling shouldn’t change our lives. We should be allowed to go running at four o’clock in the afternoon or eight o’clock in the evening. It shouldn’t matter. So I’m trying not to, but I am more cautious already.

Lighting candles at the walk and vigil for Ashling Murphy at the Atlantic pond, Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Saturday. Picture: Eddie O’Hare

“Yeah, I was walking my dog last night and it was seven o’clock and I was kind of looking around and I wasn’t wearing earphones, which I normally work so it has impacted me but I’m trying not to let it,” she said.

Stephen Heffernan and Roisín Nic Giolla Ruaidh stood together along the waterside, near where flowers were laid for Ashling.

“I came out this morning because I actually know Amy, Ashling’s sister, my father’s home house is just only a couple of doors down from their house. They are just lovely, lovely people,” said Mr Heffernan.

Claire Cowhey had her young daughter held on one hip, looking around at the gathering crowd.

“I have my little girl here in my arms, I don’t want her to be afraid, imagine if something ever happened to her I’d be distraught. It starts with the schools, exposing our kids, they should be all taught about consent,” she said.

“I don’t know, you can’t blame men in general for what happened because it’s not all men, it’s just a couple of bad eggs,” she added.

Graham Clifford, from the Sanctuary Runners, a group that enables Irish residents to run alongside, and in solidarity with, asylum seekers and refugees in Direct Provision, had brought his two teenage daughters, Molly and Aoife.

“For them, I think it’s so important to join with others to remember Ashling, but also to kind of take a defiant stance in terms of violence against women, and attitudes to women in general in our society, and to understand as young women that this is not something that can continue to go on,” he said.

The large crowd at the walk and vigil for Ashling Murphy at the Atlantic pond, Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Saturday. Picture: Eddie O’Hare

“When I saw a survey from the Runner’s World Magazine last year that showed that over 70% of women experienced some nonsense, I wasn’t aware of the gravity of this. And then I had to stop and say, okay, why wasn’t I aware of it? And now that I am, and I should have been, but now that I am, what am I going to do about it?

“As parents, with kids with two boys as well, it’s so important that they know that this is just insane. And she’s not alone. Obviously, it just can’t, it can’t continue. There is no logic to it. It’s unacceptable,” he said.

Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork, Mary Rose Desmond, said the whole country is rocked by what happened to Ashling Murphy.

“Everyone has felt this to the core. You think of your own family, your own loved ones, and I suppose today, what we’re thinking about is the whole fear that women are dealing with on a day to day basis,” she said.

 Mary Crilly, sexual violence centre, Cork and Susan Huggins, walk organiser at the walk and vigil for Ashling Murphy at the Atlantic pond, Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Saturday. Picture: Eddie O’Hare

“I know we can talk about the criminal justice system and different elements, and that obviously needs improvement, but I suppose it’s the whole narrative, and you hear people talking about that now, and about the role that men have to play in this. 

“To be fair, we always have this conversation, and the vast majority of men want to do something, but they need to do more. The good guys need to actually speak up, need to say more, need to be more proactive. We need to continue to educate the men and women but our certainly our boys with regards to respect,” she added.

Speaking to the crowd, Mary Crilly, director of the Sexual Violence Centre in Cork, said she was overwhelmed by the phenomenal turnout. 

“This phenomenal turnout is so inspiring, but from Cork, I’m not a bit surprised. I’m nearly 40 years in the sexual violence centre, 40 years of meeting people who have been raped or abused, 40 years of meeting all the Cork people who want to make a difference and want to make a change, both women and men,” she said.

Arriving with candles at the walk and vigil for Ashling Murphy at the Atlantic pond, Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Saturday. Picture: Eddie O’Hare

“So I’m not surprised by the turnout, because I think of all people, Cork people hate injustice, and this today is really saying that women matter, men matter, violence against women and men matters, and we do want to make a difference,” she added.

Gardaí are continuing to hunt for Ashling’s killer.

The Gard

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