'Fly in the sky our shining light': Funeral of Ashling Murphy takes place

'Fly in the sky our shining light': Funeral of Ashling Murphy takes place

Ashling Murphy's boyfriend Ryan Casey and sister Amy Murphy comfort each other as they arrive for her funeral. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The funeral of 23-year-old schoolteacher Ashling Murphy took place outside Tullamore, Co Offaly this morning. 

The primary school pupils who adored Ms Murphy formed a guard of honour and the country came to a standstill to say a final farewell to the schoolteacher who was murdered last week while out running on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore.

Hundreds of people began to arrive at St Brigid’s Church in Mountbolus before 9am this morning, hours ahead of the 11am start-time for the funeral mass.

Ashling Murphy: Picture: RIP.ie
Ashling Murphy: Picture: RIP.ie

The assembled, and ever-growing, crowd were largely silent as they waited for the last journey of Ashling Murphy.

Among those in attendance were the pupils and staff of Durrow National School.

The first class that she taught were among those who gave Ashling a guard of honour on the way into the church.

Each of them held aloft a rose and a photo of Ashling that bore the message “fly high in the sky our shining light”.

Musicians began arriving before 10am, embracing each other as they entered St Brigid’s, with Ashling well known on the trad scene as a talented musician. President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, and Taoiseach Micheál Martin are among those in attendance. 

An escort of Gardaí on motorcyclists led the way as Ashling’s family and friends walked alongside and behind the hearse as it made its way into the grounds of St Brigid’s.

Amy Murphy paid tribute to her sister ahead of the funeral, describing her as "the light of our lives".

Writing on Facebook last night, she 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."

Parish priest Fr Michael Meade is leading the service which began with music performed by members of Ballyboy Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann, teaching colleagues and friends of Ms Murphy.

During the mass, symbols to represent Ashling and her life were shown. They included a Killormac Killoughey GAA jersey, a fiddle, a family photo and a schoolbook.

Ashling’s father Raymond, her mother Kathleen, and her siblings Cathal and Amy accompanied her from their home at Cully.

The first and second readings were given by her cousins Emma Murphy and Lorraine Dunne.

Ashling's boyfriend paid tribute to the life""greatest love of and described her as his "shining light" as she was laid to rest this afternoon.

Ryan Casey said that everyone who knew Ashling was "so lucky to know and love and spend as much time with her as possible".

"She was always there, always willing to help anybody, anywhere, at any time, and always put herself last," he said.

"She had so many talents which combined made her an incredibly loving and beautiful person. We were all so lucky to know and love and spend as much time with her as possible.

"I will cherish the last five years we spent together for my entire life. I hope that some day, God willing, we can be reunited once more and continue the great plans we had made for each other.

"Goodbye for now, but not forever, darling. Ashling shall live on in all of our hearts."

Mourners walk beside the hearse as the cortege arrives at St Brigid's Church, Mountbolus, Co Offaly, for the funeral of Ashling Murphy. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Mourners walk beside the hearse as the cortege arrives at St Brigid's Church, Mountbolus, Co Offaly, for the funeral of Ashling Murphy. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

In his homily, Father Meade said: "Together we grieve, we pray, we hurt – this is the heavy price we pay for love – we gather as a family of faith, to be with, to support by our prayer and our presence, those whose darkness is deep, whose pain is raw and fierce.

“Kathleen and Ray, Cathal, Amy and her boyfriend, Ryan - you have been robbed of your most precious gift - a gift that gave only joy and love, fun and laughter to many beyond your family.” 

Father Meade said her life was one of joy and of love.

That same love and joy was not kept on a shelf or wrapped up – it was freely given and shared through music, through sport, through her vocation as a teacher.

"Today we give thanks for the privilege of sharing in this most wonderful gift of Ashling Murphy, today we share our love, our grief, our faith and our comfort with the Murphy and Leonard families.”

In an address, Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan said that the past few days had been a “nightmare”.

“A walk on a mild and sunny afternoon in January should be a happy event, promising the brighter and warmer days of spring and summer,” he said.

Bishop Deenihan said that a “depraved act of violence” which deprived a “kind, talented, loved and admired young woman of her life has since united the country in grief and support”.

Pupils from Ashling Murphy's class hold photographs of her and red roses outside St Brigid's Church, Mountbolus, Co Offaly, ahead of the funeral of the schoolteacher who was murdered in Tullamore, Co Offaly last Wednesday. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Pupils from Ashling Murphy's class hold photographs of her and red roses outside St Brigid's Church, Mountbolus, Co Offaly, ahead of the funeral of the schoolteacher who was murdered in Tullamore, Co Offaly last Wednesday. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

He said the crime has also asked questions of ourselves and of society. He urged people to show respect for one another and said such violence cannot be allowed to take root in our society and culture.

“However, today is about Ashling and her family and friends,“ the bishop said.

“I also think of Ashling’s pupils and the staff of Durrow National School who have lost a wonderful colleague and teacher. Their grief and their loss must be acknowledged and supported. 

As we return to our lives after today, their grief and loss remains.

Bishop Deenihan said that if there was a chink of light in the darkness, it was the outpouring of sympathy and support.

He said: “Community is important and community works. Community is needed to overcome evils such as this and community will be needed here in the weeks ahead.”

The funeral mass for Ashling Murphy ended just before 12.45pm with trad musicians among those lining the streets outside St Brigid’s church.

Before the funeral cortege passed outside the grounds, the assembled musicians began playing in tribute to Aisling. They resumed playing as people began filing out of the church grounds.

She will be laid to rest this afternoon.

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