Campaigners want end to ‘scattered’ approach after Ashling Murphy murder

The killing of the 23-year-old teacher, who was running by a canal, caused widespread anger – and sparked a wider debate about women’s safety.

Cate McCurry
Monday 17 January 2022 17:33
Floral tributes and candles surround a photographer left at the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly, where primary school teacher Ashling Murphy was found dead after going for a run on Wednesday afternoon (Niall Carson/PA)
Floral tributes and candles surround a photographer left at the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly, where primary school teacher Ashling Murphy was found dead after going for a run on Wednesday afternoon (Niall Carson/PA)

More must be done to tackle domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence in Ireland, campaigners have demanded in the wake of Ashling Murphy’s murder.

Irish police are still hunting for the killer of Ms Murphy, a 23-year-old teacher who was found dead after going for a run on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore.

The murder has caused widespread anger and shock in Ireland and beyond, with tens of thousands of people attending vigils in recent days.

Mary McDermott, chief executive officer at Safe Ireland, which campaigns for women and children’s safety, said the country does not have a minister with full responsibility for gender-based and domestic violence, saying it is “scattered” across various Government departments.

Floral tributes and candles are left for Ms Murphy during a vigil outside the London Irish Centre in Camden (PA)

She told RTE Morning Ireland: “Refuge and support services are under (the department of) children and the rest of the responsibility, which we know requires a whole of Government response, is scattered across the rest of Government departments.

“It needs a whole-level response but at the moment it is fragmented and scattered.

“The Tanaiste (Leo Varadkar) said there is a need for a lead minister.

“We hope it brings all the areas under one ministry to respond in a coherent and systematic and fully resourced way.

“Domestic violence in this country is a large-scale social problem. It is not a matter of poor personal choice. While we welcome all targeted actions that address the individual, if it is not systemically responded to we will fail.

“We think domestic violence is akin to climate change and call for a high-level unit to set out and consider this.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle ONeill, First Minister Paul Givan and DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson take part in a silent vigil on the steps of Parliament Buildings, Stormont, for Ashling Murphy, who was found dead after going for a run in Co Offaly (David Young/PA)

Over the weekend, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said a new Government strategy to tackle domestic, sexual and gender-based violence will be published by the start of March. It would, she said, take a “zero-tolerance” approach to violence against women.

It comes as Irish police identified a new person of interest – who is believed to be in hospital in the Dublin region receiving treatment – and are waiting to speak to him.

As their probe continues, gardai believe DNA will play a key role in bringing Ms Murpy’s killer to justice.

A complaint from another woman, who said she was followed on the same canal path hours before the murder, is still being investigated.

Gardai remained at the scene on Monday to carry out further examinations of the area.

Members of the public continued to bring floral tributes and messages to the canal throughout the day, while a long line of mourners waited to pay their respects outside Ms Murphy’s family home in Blue Ball.

A woman wearing a ‘solidarity, not silence, T-shirt attends a vigil outside the London Irish Centre in Camden (PA)

Ms Murphy’s funeral will take place on Tuesday at St Brigid’s Church, Mountbolus, in Co Offaly.

Unions including the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, and Teachers’ Union Ireland have urged schools and colleges across Ireland to observe a minute’s silence at 11am the same day.

They said in a joint statement: “We are encouraging schools to fall silent to remember a beloved primary school teacher, taken far too soon, and show our solidarity with her friends, family, colleagues and pupils as Ashling is laid to rest.”

Meanwhile, MLAs gathered in front of Parliament Buildings at Stormont for a vigil.

Before the Northern Ireland Assembly resumed business following its recess, politicians from the main parties came together.

First Minister Paul Givan, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood gathered in front of a portrait of Ms Murphy and flowers.

Addressing MLAs at Stormont, Ms O’Neill said: “There are simply no words to convey the cruelty and injustice of what happened to Ashling, nor the heartbreak and sorrow of her loss.

“Our hearts go out to her family and all who loved her.

“Regretfully the truth is violence against women and girls, the threat of violence against women and girls, the fear of violence against women and girls is all too common.

“Domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is an epidemic.”

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