Ireland 'united in grief' at funeral for murdered teacher Ashling Murphy

Watch Ashling Murphy's loved ones pay tribute in this UTV News report.

Ireland was "united in grief" as a funeral service took place for murdered school teacher Ashling Murphy.

Mourners were told a "depraved act of violence" robbed the young woman of her life as Bishop Deenihan said the killing raised many questions for society.

The Irish President and Taoiseach were among those at the service at St Brigid's Church in Mountbolus on Tuesday (January 18).

The 23-year-old primary school teacher and talented musician was found dead after going for a run on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly.

Children from Coolanarney National School where Ms Murphy taught lined up and formed a guard of honour for the cortege with each pupil holding her picture and a red rose.

The cortege for Ashling Murphy passes through her hometown of Mountbolus, Co Offaly. Credit: PA

Irish President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, as well as Taoiseach Micheál Martin both embraced the family before the service began.

Symbols of Ms Murphy's life - a fiddle, a camogie jersey, a family picture, a school book and her photo were brought before the altar.

Father Michael Meade told the service Ms Murphy's family had been "robbed of your most precious gift".

He told mourners: "Together we grieve, together we pray, together we hurt - this is the heavy price we pay for love.

"We gather as one family to be with, to support by our prayer and our presence, those whose darkness is deep, whose pain is raw and fierce.

"Kathleen and Ray, Cathal, Amy and her 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.

"The issues raised in many ways and by many voices since this horrible act of violence invaded all our lives will, we pray, continue to evolve and bring the change we need so much, to simply give and show respect."

During the funeral, relatives prayed that the many vigils that have taken place in Ashling Murphy's memory "mark the beginning of the end to violence against women".

"May the candlelight tributes bring an everlasting hope to all those that live in fear," a relative prayed.

Members of Kilcormac Killoughey GAA club, where Ashling Murphy played camogie.

Bishop Tom Deenihan also addressed mourners on behalf of the Diocese of Meath, describing the past few days as "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.

"A depraved act of violence which deprived a kind, talented, loved and admired young woman of her life has since united the country in grief and support,” he said.

Bishop Deenihan continued: “The crime has also asked questions of ourselves and of society. 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.

"Pope Francis in his homily for New Year’s Day just two weeks ago said that violence against women was an insult to God.

“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."

Ms Murphy's death has sparked a debate around women's safety and prompted calls for more to be done to tackle domestic and gender-based violence.

Tens of thousands of people have attended vigils in recent days to honour Ms Murphy.

It comes as Irish police investigating the death renewed an appeal for information, saying "significant progress" has been made in the murder probe.

An Garda Síochána released a description of a man detectives want to speak to in relation to the teacher's murder.

Police have asked anyone who saw a man dressed in black tracksuit top with no hood, black tracksuit bottoms with a large white stripe or white writing on the side and black runners to come forward.

It comes as they 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.

Members of the public have continued to bring floral tributes and messages to the canal in recent days.