‘Everyone is just heartbroken’: Vigil held in London for Ashling Murphy

More than a thousand people line the streets outside the London Irish Centre in Camden

More than a thousand people gather outside the London Irish Centre in Camden for a vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

More than a thousand people gather outside the London Irish Centre in Camden for a vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

 

More than a thousand people lined the streets outside the London Irish Centre in Camden this evening at a vigil for Ashling Murphy.

Among the crowd were 26-year-olds Rachel Harvey and Rebecca Bell, from Tullamore, where they knew Ashling from school.

“Tullamore is a very small town, everyone knows everybody,” says Rebecca, who also knows Ashling’s sister Amy.

Moving to London was a bit of a culture shock, the pair said, especially as in Tullamore “there’s a strong sense of community, whereas in a big city it’s very different”.

Rebecca said: “You can really tell on a day like today, when the London Irish Centre organised this gathering of what I would imagine is a predominantly Irish crowd – this kind of thing touches one Irish person, and everyone all over the world will rally for that person.”

The girls, who both came to the UK more than five years ago, say they feel unsafe on the streets.

Rachel said: “It’s just constant, it’s never-ending, as a woman.”

Musicians perform during a vigil outside the London Irish Centre in Camden. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Musicians perform during a vigil outside the London Irish Centre in Camden. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

“It is literally never-ending,” says Rebecca, “look at the Sarah Everard thing that happened here; every day there’s another name. This could be any person.”

Rachel said it was not expected in Tullamore “because we live in such a safe town where everybody knows everyone, and for it to touch on our town you just realise it’s everywhere”.

Irish musician Mattiú Gaffney, who is 22 and living in Birmingham, knew Ashling through the National Folk Orchestra of Ireland, where they played together for the past five years.

“We used to meet regularly and play music and do concerts and festivals all around the country in Ireland.”

Mattiú says Ashling was “just a lovely person, bubbly, nice to talk to, never a sad face, just smiling all the time, when I knew her”.

“My two sisters at home would be more friendly with her – they spoke with her sister, everyone’s just heartbroken. It’s just tragic.”

Standing among mourners and well-wishers of all age groups, Mattiú said: “I think that all around Ireland, as well as overseas, it is lovely to see such a nice response.

More than a thousand people lined the streets outside the London Irish Centre in Camden this evening at a vigil for Ashling Murphy. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
More than a thousand people lined the streets outside the London Irish Centre in Camden this evening at a vigil for Ashling Murphy. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

“It is a response to Ashling, but it is also a response to hate – it’s hard to believe that there’s such disgusting and ugly people in the world that would do such a thing. I can’t put words to it, it’s just horrible.

“But it’s really nice to see all us Irish and second-generation Irish, and people who might not have any connection to Ireland, coming out and just showing a face, being here to show Ashling support, and to support women and society.”

Dublin-born violinist Joanne Flemming, in her early 50s, has been living in the London for 13 years.

She says the level of safety she feels in both cities is “about the same”.

“I am always careful, but I think Dublin and London would be similar. It is something I am always conscious of, you know, not to take chances. I’m lucky I’ve got my partner who will come and meet me. If we’re out, we are generally together.

“I think I’ve just got used to being careful without thinking about it too much.”

Carrying her instrument can sometimes attract unwanted attention.

Floral tributes and candles are left after a vigil for Ashling Murphy outside the London Irish Centre in Camden. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Floral tributes and candles are left after a vigil for Ashling Murphy outside the London Irish Centre in Camden. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

“Even when you’re out at night with a fiddle it can be an invitation for strangers to come and start chatting to you as well. I suppose because I’m a bit older and a bit more street-wise about that kind of stuff now it happens less often.”

Joanne heard of Ashling’s death from a friend and fellow musician.

She said: “A friend of mine that plays over here has played on a number of tours with Ashling [and] was very upset when he contacted me on Thursday morning to tell [me] that she was murdered.

“So I know people who knew her, and while I didn’t know her personally, I just felt it was important to turn up today and pay my respects and play a few tunes for her.”

Joanne was one of a group of live performers who played sombre traditional Irish songs, such as Mo Ghile Mear, to the backdrop of flickering candles and complete silence among a crowd stretching across Camden Square.

Joanne says she was “shocked” at the news because it happened “during the day”.

“It also shocked me that it happened in an Irish rural town like Tullamore. I have always felt very safe in rural Ireland. I’ve never been approached in a small town, normally it’s Dublin or London where you’d meet the odd strange bloke that you would kind of stay away from.”