Ashling Murphy remembered as woman who lived her ‘short years to the full and made a difference’

Depraved act of violence deprived kind, loved young woman of life, bishop says at funeral

Ashling Murphy was remembered as a kind, talented, loved and admired young woman at her funeral Mass in Mountbolus, Co Offaly.

 

School children holding laminated photographs of their beloved Miss Murphy on her graduation day along with a single red rose stood patiently at the gates of St Brigid’s Church in Mountbolus awaiting the funeral cortege of the popular teacher on Tuesday morning.

Nearby were students from the Sacred Heart School in Tullamore. Co Offaly where Ashling Murphywas a student from 2011 to 2017. And everywhere there were musicians, inside the church, outside the church, before and after the funeral mass and later at Lowertown cemetery where Ashling was laid to rest.

From early morning crowds had been gathering quietly and respectfully outside the small church. Gardaí and volunteers from Kilcormac-Killoughey GAA club directed traffic into parking spaces on each of the three routes into the village.

Arriving before the funeral, President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina and Taoiseach Micheál Martin were met at the church door door by a number of clergy including the Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan.

The funeral of Ashling Murphy in St Brigid’s Church, Mountbolus, Co Offaly. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The funeral of Ashling Murphy in St Brigid’s Church, Mountbolus, Co Offaly. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Also in attendance were Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Minister for Education Norma Foley and local TDs Sean Fleming and Brian Stanley.

The funeral mass was live streamed to the local community centre and onto a large screen at the GAA pitch where a shrine to Ashling was bedecked in flowers, cards and photographs.

Despite rain showers people remained in place for the service which featured numerous musical tributes along with readings and prayers by extended family members including her godparents Ger Leonard and Regina Murphy who brought to the altar the items representing her life - a hurley, a GAA jersey, a family photo and a schoolbook.

End to violence

Perhaps the most poignant was a prayer of the faithful by Ashling’s cousin Rachel O’Shea: “We pray 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.”

Another prayer mentioned the Garda, specifically two members of the force who were the family’s liaison officers.

Further prayers of the faithful were said for Ashling’s friends, colleagues and students in Ballyboy Comhaltas, Kilcormac-Killoughey Camogie club and Scoil Naomh Colmcille, Durrow, the family’s neighbours and friends, for the emergency services and all the staff at Tullamore hospital.

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin at the funeral of Ashling Murphy. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin at the funeral of Ashling Murphy. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

They were read by Ashling’s cousins Siobhain Maher and Alisha Leonard, Ciara Leonard and Aoife Leonard, Rachel O’Shea and Caoimhe Dooley.

In an address to the congregation before the final prayers of commendation, Bishop Deenihan said that Ashling Murphy’s death had been “a depraved act of violence which deprived a kind, talented, loved and admired young woman of her life, but that it had since united the country in grief and support.”

Her murder also asked questions of society as a group and as individuals.

“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,” he said.

Precious gift

“The past few days have 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. That, as we know, was not the case.

“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.

“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.”

Local parish priest Fr Michael Meade gave the homily in which he said the grief of the community was the heavy price of love.

“Kathleen and Ray, Cathal, Amy and Ashling’s 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.

“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.”

Following the funeral mass hundreds of mourners made the short walk to Lowertown cemetery where Ashling was laid to rest. Her boyfriend Ryan Casey made an emotional graveside speech in which he said Ashling had been so much more than a girlfriend to him and would always be his soulmate and “the greatest love of my life”.

Ashling Murphy
Ashling Murphy

Afterwards, the many musicians present paid tribute to their departed friend with a selection of traditional tunes, as had been requested by her family.

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