Thousands attend vigils in Belfast, Portrush and other locations for gifted teacher Ashling Murphy who was murdered

Vigils have taken place across the island of Ireland to remember murdered teacher Ashling Murphy.

Friday, 14th January 2022, 7:21 pm
Updated Saturday, 15th January 2022, 11:03 am

Irish police are continuing the hunt for the killer of the 23-year-old, who was found dead on Wednesday after going for a run on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly.

Thousands of people gathered in the late afternoon in Tullamore, Dublin and Belfast, as well as in many other towns across the island. Among the events was a gathering in Portrush, Co Antrim, on Friday evening.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin was among those who gathered outside the Dail on Friday, while deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill joined the crowd at City Hall in Belfast.

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Vigils were held across the island of Ireland on Friday in memory of murdered teacher Ashling Murphy. The 23-year-old was attacked on the banks of the Grand Canal outside Tullamore, County Offaly, on Wednesday afternoon and died at the scene. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

More vigils and memorial events will be held in the days to come.

In Tullamore, shops, businesses and cafes closed early on Friday evening, as the midlands town came largely to a halt as thousands flocked to attend the vigil in a local park.

There were many tears as people of all ages came to mourn and pay their respects to the young teacher.

Friends of Ms Murphy were among the traditional Irish musicians who played at the vigil in Tullamore.

A candlelit Vigil is held in Portrush Co Antrim on Friday evening in memory of Ashling Murphy who was brutally murdered in Tullamore. Picture Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia

Earlier, the Irish premier said that the murder of the young teacher had “united the nation in solidarity and revulsion”.

“No stone will be left unturned in terms of bringing this investigation to a completion and to bring the person responsible for this to justice,” Mr Martin said.

Politicians have promised that all resources necessary will be provided to the gardai to find the killer.

The death of Ms Murphy has sparked fresh debate about the safety of women in Ireland, with many asking how such an attack could happen in broad daylight.

Another photograph of the Portrush vigil

“We, as a society, need to face up to this. There is an epidemic of violence against women. It’s been going on for millennia, quite frankly,” Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said on Friday.

“Men and boys, I think, in particular have a responsibility to start to have that conversation among ourselves about the kind of factors, the kind of attitudes, that give rise to feelings that engender men to commit acts of violence against women.”

On Friday, gardai issued a renewed appeal for witnesses and asked anyone with information about a bicycle – a Falcon Storm mountain bike with straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front forks – to come forward.

On Thursday, officers released a man they had been questioning, saying he is “no longer a suspect”.

The man’s solicitor told the PA news agency that he has had his “life ruined”.

Donal Farrelly, who represented the man during his two days of questioning, condemned those who had tried to identify him on social media.

The town of Tullamore has been left reeling from the death of Ms Murphy, who was described as a “special girl” and a “little angel” by her family.

In an interview with the Irish Independent newspaper, her father Raymond said: “She was a great worker, with great drive. A marvellous musician.

“She crammed so much into her short life.”

Those who knew her described her as a gifted musician who was loved by her pupils.

It is believed about 50 officers are working on the investigation and a post-mortem examination has been completed. The route along the Grand Canal is often busy and is a popular spot for walkers and joggers.

Floral tributes were left outside the gates of Durrow National School, where Ms Murphy taught, and on Friday the school issued a fresh tribute to her.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the school said it was “utterly devastated by the passing of our dear colleague and friend”.

“Ashling was a very professional and talented young teacher. We are deeply saddened by her tragic loss. Our thoughts are also with her beloved family at this sad time.”

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