Ashling Murphy: Hundreds gather at Belfast City Hall to pay tribute to murdered Offaly teacher

Hundreds gathered outside Belfast City Hall on Friday night to pay tribute to Ashling Murphy, the 23-year-old woman who was murdered in Co Offaly on Wednesday.

The event in Belfast took place at. 16.00, while several other vigils across the island of Ireland were also held in memory of the young primary school teacher.

Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill attended the event, describing it as a “watershed moment” to highlight the issue of violence against women.


Flowers laid outside Belfast City Hall – Photo Colm Lenaghan / Pacemaker Press

Described by her father Raymond as “a wonderful musician”, a touching musical tribute to Ashling was performed on the watch by some of the traditional Irish musicians she knew, two of whom previously played with her in the National Folk Orchestra of Ireland.

Several politicians attended the tribute ceremony, including Belfast Mayor Kate Nicholl and SDLP MP for South Belfast, Claire Hanna.

The event was organized by Reclaim the Night and the Belfast Feminist Network, organizations aiming to “highlight the need for action against gender-based violence and harassment in Northern Ireland”.

After reading a poem that highlighted the issue of violence against women, the crowd paused for a minute in silence.

One of the guard organizers, Emma Gallen, said: “We saw all the news, we all saw about Ashling Murphy, and we all thought we had to do something.

“We could not just stand by and not acknowledge that a murder happened in daylight on someone who was at the beginning of her life.

“We wanted to mark the grief we all feel and come together to mark how sad we all are and how angry we all are.”

Mrs O’Neill said there had been an “outpouring of grief” after the murder.

She said: “Earlier this week, I launched a strategy. I called for views on developing a strategy to tackle men’s violence against women.

“Little did I know on Monday that I would only stand here a short number of days later and join other women gathered here outside Belfast City Hall to show solidarity with the family and everyone who loved Ashling Murphy.

“A horrible murder of another woman in our society at the hands of a man. We are all here because we want to show that support, that love.

“There’s been an outpouring of grief all week for Ashling Murphy and for everyone who loved her.”

The Mid Ulster MLA said guards taking place across Ireland were demonstrating women saying violence against them should stop now.

“We are here because we say enough is enough. It must stop, violence against women and girls must stop now. Male violence against women and girls must stop now.

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

“We have the right to feel safe, we have the right to be safe. We have the right to run. We have the right to go to work and feel safe, we have the right to go to the shops and feel safe .

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

Events took place at a number of other locations in Northern Ireland, including Portrush and Newry.

A new suspect in Ashling’s killing has also been identified Friday.

The man is currently being treated at a hospital but is believed to be under “discreet surveillance” by the Gardai.

He is in no way connected to the innocent man who was arrested shortly after Ashling’s body was discovered along a popular canal walk in Tullamore on Wednesday.

It comes after a man who was wrongfully arrested was released late last night. He has gone into hiding for his own safety.

“The last thing she said in the morning when she went out was ‘Mom, I love you,’” her crushed mother Kathleen said.

“She was an amazing worker with a great drive. An amazing musician. She stuffed so much into her short life. She played with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí all over Ireland and across the UK on the tours. She was in their youth choir and senior orchestra,” added her father.

“” She was a brilliant girl in every sense of the word. She was just a special girl. She is the youngest, a little angel. “

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