Ashling Murphy’s dad plays her favourite song as heartbroken family join vigil

Ashling Murphy’s dad plays her favourite song as heartbroken family join vigil

Murdered school teacher Ashling Murphy's mother Kathleen Murphy, father Raymond Murphy, brother Cathal Murphy and sister Amy Murphy comfort one another as they attend a candlelit vigil near the scene of her murder. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Ashling Murphy’s heartbroken family held each other in grief as they walked towards the canal bank where their precious daughter was murdered.

Gardaí flanked the family as they stood metres from where she died violently. Hundreds of people gathered nearby, watching on in mute sorrow.

Among flickering candles and silent tears, her father Ray Murphy played the banjo for his daughter's favourite song, Sweet Sixteen.

Chinese lanterns were released into the darkened sky.

Mr Murphy was joined by his bandmates from Best Foot Forward and local priests, Fr Patrick O'Byrne and Fr Declan Thompson, led prayers for the grieving.

Ashling Murphy's father Raymond Murphy (seated) plays a musical tribute to his daughter as he attends a candlelit vigil near the scene of her murder. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Ashling Murphy's father Raymond Murphy (seated) plays a musical tribute to his daughter as he attends a candlelit vigil near the scene of her murder. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Ashling’s siblings Amy and Cathal and their mother Kathleen attended, with Ashling’s boyfriend Ryan and dozens of members of her extended family.

Local woman Mary Daly had called for the vigil at Cappincur to show solidarity with the family.

“We feel honoured to have the family out here,” Ms Daly said. "It was so emotional."

Across town, people poured in their thousands into Tullamore Town Park to remember.  

They said the school teacher, renowned musician and respected sportswoman, had left an indelible impression in her short life.

Ms Murphy, 23, was the person parents dream their children will become. Universally loved and respected, clever, kind, fun and hugely talented.

A group of her school friends mourned the cruel loss.

“She was loved by so many people,” Katie Dunne said.

“She gave everybody a chance. She never had a bad day or never showed it.” 

“She had a contagious smile,” another school friend said. “And she was very cheeky. She called everyone 'missus'.” 

Other friends played traditional music in her memory, their melodies filling the park with the sounds she had loved so much.

One musician and friend, Helen Brady, said the local music scene will never be the same.

“She should still be here, playing with us tonight. She was such a prominent person on the Fleadh [Cheoil] scene. She was easily one of the most talented fiddle players I ever met."

Claire Brennan, a former music student of Ms Murphy’s, who also played at the vigil, said: “I learned so much from Ashling. She was such a vibrant person. She made such an impact on so many people in her short life.” 

People read poems written in her honour, both angry and heartbroken at her brutal murder. 

They gathered beneath the bare, sleeping trees, their candles flickering warmly through the cold January dusk. Some cried, others bowed their heads in prayer or sorrow. Mothers pushed buggies and clutched babies, others held flowers and candles.  

"The whole community is dazed. We’re here to show our support and solidarity with her family,” Kate Power said.

“Everyone is reeling and very fearful to go walking now. My daughter is here with friends and I warned her not to leave the park on her own. There’s fear in the community now."

Representatives from local groups, united in their grief, shared messages of solidarity and hope.

“We need to be together. We need to support one another in this dark time,” local priest, Father Joe Gallagher, told the crowd of some 8,000 people.

Thousands more gathered in vigils for Ashling in Dublin and all over the country.

From before 4pm, a crowd began to gather outside Leinster House. The numbers assembled swelled into the thousands, stretching to both ends of Kildare Street, and back down Molesworth Street towards the city’s heart.

The huge crowd, with a clear majority of women but with plenty of men, delivered a powerful display of dignified, raw emotion. Candles were everywhere. And signs. “Enough is enough,” one read.

“The real issue is male violence not women’s safety,” said another.

Another simply said: “We will miss you, Ms Murphy”.

The crowd felt numb, disbelieving, shocked.

People whispered among each other. The snippets were all in the same vein.

“It’s just so f***ed,” said one young woman. “It’s just too close to home.” 

Another speculated that “this has shaken the whole country, like nothing before it”. 

That would be hard to argue with.

Those who addressed the gathered crowds, which had been organised by the National Women’s Council, were not so much shocked as angry, however. 

Except for childhood friend Grace Corrigan, who spoke so passionately about Ashling, the utter devastation rippling through her words.

“So very beautiful and kind” was how she described her friend, whom she had known for nearly 20 years, “since we were sitting on a high stool, drinking Coke from a glass bottle”. 

That friendship had grown through years of performing traditional music together.

Many of Ashling’s friends had gathered at the gates to play a succession of reels in her honour as the crowd listened in silence.

“She was always happy. You would be performing together and she would see you from across the room and give you the biggest wink with the biggest smile on her face,” Ms Corrigan said.

“She genuinely cared how you were. She would ask you, you would reply, and then six months later she would repeat it back to you.” 

Ashling was an “incredibly beautiful person” she said. 

Through tears, she expressed her deepest sympathies to Ashling’s parents, brother and sister, her best friend Aileen Murphy, and “above all” her boyfriend Ryan.

“They shouldn’t be going through this,” Ms Corrigan said. 

“It should never have happened. Ashling, we will never, ever forget you.” 

Her local traditional music leader Jim McAllister told the crowd that Ashling, a champion fiddle player in her own right, tended to end practice by not only “picking up her stuff but also everyone else’s”.

“That comes from a family who loved her and raised her. As a parent to a daughter, I can’t imagine what they’re feeling. Take a moment to think about that, because it’s indescribable,” he said.

Feminist activist Ailbhe Smyth told the crowd that “this has to be a turning point” to a chorus of approval.

“Let something come from this awful event,” she said. 

“What can you do but cry, because of wickedness, because of cruelty. But there is anger there too. Men’s violence against women and girls must stop. All men must stand up, in our culture as a whole, there must be zero tolerance.” 

Former director of Women’s Aid Margaret Martin reminded the crowd that 243 women have been violently killed in Ireland since 1996.

She spoke of the tactics that women have learned to employ in order to keep themselves safe. Donning earphones at the right moment. Crossing the street judiciously.

“Perhaps this tragic death will be a watershed moment,” she said. 

“We want to see men challenged for their wave of disrespect, the derogatory comments. We need to challenge them because if we don’t we’re just feeding into the problem.” 

Former chair of the women’s council Ellen O’Malley Dunlop sang A Woman’s Heart by Eleanor McEvoy. 

The crowd echoed the words in sorrowful unison. My heart is low, my heart is so low. As only a woman’s heart can be.” 

The vigil ended but the crowd didn’t disperse. A huge queue formed to leave flowers and candles at the gates.

It was a powerful tribute to someone who was hugely loved. Whether it will prove to be a turning point in Ireland’s shameful history of female hurt remains to be seen. It certainly felt like one.

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