The primary school pupils who adored Ashling Murphy will form a poignant guard of honour at her funeral today as the country comes to a standstill to say a final farewell to the murdered schoolteacher.
Schools across the country will observe a minute’s silence at 11am, as Ashling’s family, friends, camogie teammates, and her cherished pupils gather to pay their respects at St Brigid’s Church in Mountbolus, near Tullamore, Co Offaly.
Ahead of the funeral, Amy Murphy paid tribute to her 23-year-old sister.
Writing on Facebook last night, Amy said: “Ashling was the light of our lives and the heart of our family. Sadly we will lay her to rest tomorrow.
"Our family kindly asks that any musicians attending please bring their instrument and play music at the lower town cemetery after mass should you wish."
Ahead of the funeral Mass, Local parish priest Fr Michael Meade said he will be telling mourners to “be courageous”.
“Don’t be afraid to speak up, and do not be afraid to continue living as we are called to live, showing respect for all people,” he told the BBC yesterday. “There is a great community spirit here, and it is a real example of how we are called to live, to care for each other as best we can, and that has been given physical evidence.”
Pupils of Durrow National School and team-mates at Kilcormac-Killoughey GAA club will form guards of honour at the funeral, while Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Justice Minister Helen McEntee will also attend.
The funeral comes as gardaí issue a fresh appeal for the public’s help to solve the murder.
Detectives have given a detailed description of a man dressed in dark clothing who was spotted in the Grand Canal area near where Ashling was killed while jogging at 4pm last Wednesday.
They have said the man was potentially loitering in the area, and someone may have given him a lift.
“Did you see a man dressed in black tracksuit top [no hood], black tracksuit bottoms with a large white stripe or white writing on the side, and black runners?” gardaí asked in a statement.
“Did you see this man walking in the Tullamore area?”
Detectives have said “significant progress” is being made as they await to question a “person of interest”.
Eight bottle banks at the Daingean Rd car park on the bank of the Grand Canal were sealed off on Sunday night, with one of them removed from the scene yesterday afternoon.
There is CCTV at the recycling centre, which is located about a kilometre away from the crime scene.
Gardaí also confirmed that a number of vehicles have been seized for examination.
A house in a village near Tullamore was examined, as was a property in Dublin, as investigators seek to build a profile of the “person of interest”, who was still receiving treatment yesterday in a hospital in Dublin for a number of injuries.
They are also continuing an appeal for any information on a Falcon Storm mountain bike with straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front forks.
A Garda statement has also urged people not to speculate in relation to the killing, describing messages shared on WhatsApp and social media platforms as misinformed.
“An Garda Síochána is aware and continues to be concerned about the activity of persons who are sharing information on social media and in particular private messaging apps,” the garda statement read.
“An Garda Síochána appeals to everyone to stop sharing these messages. Not only are they misinformed, inaccurate, and dangerous, they are unhelpful to the criminal investigation.”