Ashling Murphy vigils planned as 'she was going for a run' backlash grows in wake of murder

Vigils have taken place for Ashling Murphy across Ireland. Credit: PA Media

Vigils are to be held in Belfast, Londonderry, Coleraine and Newry on Friday afternoon following the murder of young teacher, Ashling Murphy in Tullamore Co Offaly.

The 23-year-old's death has sparked widespread anger with thousands taking to social media to highlight how she was only "going for a run" before she was attacked.

The vigils are planned for 4pm and the public have been urged to bring a candle or flowers, with those not able to attend being asked to light a candle at 4pm and sharing a picture with the hashtag #HerNameWasAshling.

Irish premier Michéal Martin said the murder had united the Irish nation in "solidarity and revulsion".

"It's very poignant and a very sad moment in our nation's affairs when a young talented musician had her life violently taken a few days ago and our hearts and our minds go out to the Murphy family, to her community, to her family and friends, and to particularly the young pupils who no doubt would have been looking forward to Ashling's presence in the classroom teaching music or sport as well as the broader curriculum," he said.

"I've always been of the view that a national school teacher from the beginning of the State has been the bedrock upon which our society was built on.

"And, in many ways, Ashling Murphy represented and personified the very best of that tradition of national teaching."

Ashling Murphy Credit: Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann/PA

MLA Emma Sheerin took to Twitter saying the "women of Ireland are fed up".

"It’s not our responsibility to make sure we’re not attacked," she said.

"The best legacy we can make for Ashling Murphy is to change the culture that allows these crimes."

Meanwhile, Irish police investigating the murder are continuing the hunt for her killer.

Late on Thursday night, gardai released a man they had been questioning over the death stating he was “no longer a suspect”.

On Friday morning they issued a renewed appeal for witnesses and asked anyone with information about a bicycle – a Falcon Storm mountain bike with straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front forks – to come forward.

Image of Falcon Storm mountain bike released by police

The family of Ashling have described her as a “special girl” and a “little angel”.

In an interview with the Irish Independent newspaper, her father Raymond said: “She was a great worker, with great drive. A marvelous musician.

“She crammed so much into her short life.”

It was also reported the man who was wrongly arrested has been forced to go into hiding for his own safety. His solicitor said he had been wrongly "vilified".

Gardai have vowed to leave “no stone unturned” in bringing Ashling’s killer to justice.

Her death has sparked fresh conversations about the safety of women in Ireland, with many questioning how such an attack could happen in broad daylight.

Several hundred people attended a vigil in memory of Ashling in Galway on Thursday night.

Many in the crowd attended with flowers and candles.

Senior politicians in the Republic of Ireland have promised that justice will be delivered for the grieving family and condemned violence against women.

Michéal Martin said a new national strategy that was currently being developed to tackle sexual, domestic and gender-based violence in Ireland would adopt a "zero tolerance" approach.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said "every resource" will be provided to officers investigating the murder.

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar expressed his condolences to her family.

Flowers at a Garda checkpoint after the primary school teacher’s death Credit: Dominic McGrath/PA

“There must be zero tolerance for any violence against women,” he tweeted.

Mr Varadkar called Ashling's death “truly devastating and senseless”, adding that “every effort is being made to make sure justice is served”.

Superintendent Eamonn Curley told reporters that around 50 officers are working on the investigation as he appealed for witnesses.

He said gardai do not believe Ashling knew her killer and said he is likely a “male who acted alone”.

The murder scene remained closed off at the Grand Canal throughout Thursday as the murder probe continued.

Gardai also confirmed a post-mortem examination has been completed.

The route along the Grand Canal is often busy and is a popular spot for walkers and joggers.

Floral tributes were left outside the school gates of Durrow National School, where Ms Murphy taught, as the local community reeled in the wake of the attack.

Principal James Hogan said the school community is “utterly devastated”.

He told RTE radio Ashling was a “bright light who put a smile on anyone’s face”.

He added: “Ashling was a shining light to the kids and a very professional and talented young teacher.

“She was an inspiration to so many, not just in our school but across the wider community of schools.”

Labhras O Murchu, from traditional music organisation Comhaltas, said Ashling was “among the finest exponents of the concertina and fiddle and was also learning the uilleann pipes”, adding: “We know that she and her family are at the heart of her local community.

“She was a much-loved school teacher and had so much to offer in so many ways.”

Declan Harvey, Fianna Fail councillor for the area, added: “I am devastated.

“I couldn’t sleep last night thinking of it all because it is a place I go all the time.

“She went there jogging, she does it regularly. I am lost for words.”

Mr Harvey said it is a route that he and his family often walk.

“It’s a lovely area and helps clear your head. It’s a very popular route that everyone takes. People walk their dogs, people with their kids and prams.”