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Ashling Murphy killing: Worst outcome of this sad time would be to make men the bad guys

Reason tells us that random attacks cannot be purely gender based

The victim was young, beautiful and life was full of promise as she completed her studies. The murder happened in broad daylight, on a green and pleasant part of the Irish countryside. It was a random act of savage violence by a man against a woman. There were eyewitnesses.

Three years ago, the village of Enniskerry was in anguish over the abduction and murder of Jastine Valdez just as the people of Tullamore are over Ashling Murphy today. Jastine Valdez’s parents are “new Irish” and she was aspiring to that too. The Filipino/Irish community was gutted with grief. There was a candlelit vigil.

But there were no widespread calls for national vigils for Jastine Valdez. The president did not send a special message, Sinn Féin did not organise a candle lit vigil in Belfast, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill did not talk about a “watershed moment”. There were no vigils in New York, London and Edinburgh.

Mary Lou MacDonald did not announce a motion to establish a “gender-based unit within the Government”.

Two things happened in the immediate aftermath of the brutal murder of Ashling Murphy. Grief engulfed the country. For Ashling, for her family, for ourselves. And the wrong man, a Romanian called Radu Floricel, was arrested and questioned over two days. As headlines became hysterical about “closing in on a killer”, the mercy was that the rule of law prevailed.

“Her name was Ashling.”

There is plenty of evidence that men are aware that women have it harder in having to be ever-alert to the strength of a potential assailant.

No more words were needed on the banner. But the shadow on the nation’s grief demanded many more. Over all forms of media, but particularly social media, the rights, risks, privileges of the simple act of “going for a run” were hotly debated. The shadow was named: every woman’s nightmare – the crazy who lurks in the undergrowth, the moment when innocence collides with evil. Random.

Reason and Women’s Aid statistics tell us random is rare, that almost 90 per cent of femicide is committed in the home.

Mother of five

Ms Bashabsheh is how most Irish newspapers named the mother of five, originally from Jordan, who was found dead in her home the day before Christmas. Her husband is charged with her murder.

Her name was Zeinat.

If ever a family needed a presidential message, it was Zeinat’s family. Or the family of teenager Alanna Quinn Idris, who suffered a ruptured eyeball and fractures to her cheek and eye socket in a brutal attack after Christmas.

New Irish lives matter.

Reason also tells us that random attacks cannot be purely gender based. Almost exactly two years ago a 19-year-old man, Cameron Blair from Bandon, opened the door at a house party in Cork and within minutes had been stabbed to death by another man.

But undeniably women are more conditioned to seeing themselves as potential victims than men. And there’s a reason for that. My mother’s stricture to my six brothers remains indelibly imprinted: “Never raise your hand to a woman, you don’t know your own strength.”

Like it or not, most men are physically stronger than women. The recognition of this, like the fact that much of the dirty, dangerous work in our world is done by men, has been extraordinarily difficult for certain schools of feminists. It amounted to acknowledging an inequity: it was up to society to change, not women.

Changing society

You would not think it from this moment, but actually society is changing. The last year for which statistics are available show femicide has decreased. You would not think it from this moment, but there is plenty of evidence that men are aware that women have it harder in having to be ever-alert to the strength of a potential assailant.

The nationwide rallies in protest at the verdict in the Belfast rape trial were heavily peopled by men, as vociferous in their calls as women. The then minister for justice Charlie Flanagan, a man, immediately responded by commissioning a report into sexual violence. Its recommendations form the basis of the “ambitious strategy”, about to be announced by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

The worst outcome of this past sad week would be making men into the bad guys. That way lies a war between the sexes

But Sinn Féin won’t wait. The white heat of the social media response clearly provides the potential for another “youthgrab”. Their motion for a “gender unit” in Government smacks of the callous politicising of a brutal murder. Besides it doesn’t make sense. A sudden random act of violence is a social not a political issue. How can a deranged and evil decision by one individual to kill an innocent woman be legislated for? What law can prevent that?

One result of ill-thought-through gender policy in the past has been the demonisation of all men as potential perpetrators. Much of the MeToo crimes were perpetrated by men of a certain age but younger men find themselves carrying the burden. It’s no secret many feel alienated and confused. The worst outcome of this past sad week would be making men into the bad guys. That way lies a war between the sexes.

Ashling Murphy, by all accounts, was gentle and peace loving. What better way to memorialise her than to remember those other victims – male, female, Irish, new Irish, non-Irish? That way death shall have no dominion.