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'You have been robbed of your most precious gift': Funeral of Ashling Murphy takes place

Hundreds of mourners lined the main street of Mount Bolus to pay tribute to the young teacher.

HEARTFELT TRIBUTES HAVE been paid to Ashling Murphy this morning at her funeral in Co Offaly.

The murder of the 23-year-old teacher as she was out for a run by the canal in Tullamore last week has been met with shock, grief and anger around the country in the past week.

Hundreds of mourners lined the main street of Mount Bolus to pay tribute to Ashling, including the 1st class pupils whom she taught at Durrow National School, who held roses and photographs of their teacher.

President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee attended the funeral, alongside Ministers Catherine Martin, Norma Foley and Pippa Hackett.

Inside St Brigid’s Church, symbols of Ashling’s life were presented to the altar. A fiddle was brought to represent her love of music, alongside a Kilcormac and Killoughey camogie jersey and a hurl to represent her love of sport, and a school book to represent her career as a teacher.

Ashling Murphy funeral 018 Crowds gathered outside St Brigid's Church for the funeral of Ashling Murphy. Source: Eamonn Farrell

Ella Flaherty, a childhood friend of Ashling’s, sang the hymns You are Mine and I Watch the Sunrise during the service.

Parish priest of Kilcormac and Killoughney Fr Michael Meade paid tribute to Ashling’s parents Kathleen and Ray, her siblings Cathal and Amy and her boyfriend, Ryan, saying: “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”.

“The issues raised in many ways and by many voices since this horrible act of violence invaded all our lives will, we pray, continue to evolve and bring the change we need so much, to simply give and show respect,” he said.

Now we are here in another home where Ashling and her family joined in prayer with her larger family. Here her journey in faith began with baptism, here and at home in Cully that faith blossomed into a life of love, a life of hope, a life of trust. 
That 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.

Among the Prayers of the Faithful, read by Ashling’s cousins, a prayer that “the many vigils that took place in memory of Ashling, mark the beginning of an end to violence against women.”

“May the candle light tributes bring an everlasting hope to all those who live in fear.”

Bishop Tom Deenihan, Bishop of Meath, also offered words of sympathy to Ashling’s family and friends, describing the days following her death as “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. That, as we know, was not the case. 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.”

He said the crime has also “asked questions of ourselves and of society”.

It has questioned our attitudes and, particularly, our attitudes towards women and it has questioned our values and our morality. Whether those questions will be addressed or passed over remains to be seen but we cannot allow such violence and disregard for both human life and bodily integrity take root in our time and culture.

“We all know that no individual should die like Ashling and no family should suffer like Ashling’s. Respect is an old-fashioned word but it is an important one. Respect was missing last Wednesday but it has re-emerged here all the stronger. Let us respect each other,” he said. 

He paid tribute to Ashling, her family, friends and her pupils. “Their grief and their loss must be acknowledged and supported. As we return to our lives after today, their grief and loss remains,” he said.

He said that if there is a chink of light to last week’s darkness it must be “the outpouring of support and sympathy that we have all seen”.

It was manifested at the various vigils, it was manifested by those who assisted here, at the family home and in Durrow school over the past few days by those who quietly and discreetly provided refreshments, stewarding and whatever help that they could. 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.

“Today, we bury Ashling as we must. We bury a woman who lived the short years given to her to the full, who developed her talents, who reached out to others, who made a difference, who brought happiness and who was loved.”

Ashling is being laid to rest at Lowertown Cemetery. Messages of condolences can be left for Ashling’s family on RIP.ie or on Lawless Funerals website.

Durrow National School paid tribute to Ashling this morning, calling her “our dear colleague” and “our shining light”.

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The school shared a video which included footage of Ashling playing the violin alongside tributes from her colleagues. 

To coincide with the funeral, the INTO, ASTI, FÓRSA and the TUI asked that students and teachers fall silent in her memory this morning. The silence was observed in schools across the country.

Tens of thousands of people attended vigils and memorials in recent days to remember Ashling, with hundreds gathering around the country and world again yesterday.

On Friday, President Higgins paid tribute to Ashling’s “short but brilliant and generous life”. 

“I spoke to Ashling’s family to convey, as President on behalf of the people of Ireland, and on behalf of Sabina and myself as parents, my profound sympathy and sorrow and sense of loss that her tragic death has meant to so many, but what in particular it must mean to her mother Kathleen, father Raymond, sister Amy and brother Cathal,” President Higgins said.

“I sought to convey a sense of how so many parents, families, indeed all of the people of Ireland are thinking of the Murphy family at this very sad time. The loss of Ashling is a loss to all of us, but to her family it is beyond description.”

A man in his 30s has been arrested in connection with Ashling’s death

- With reporting from Hayley Halpin

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