Ashling Murphy: crowds gather for funeral of teacher in Ireland | Ireland | #teacher | #children | #kids

The funeral of the 23-year-old teacher Ashling Murphy is taking place in Ireland as neighbours talked of a “blackness” that has descended on the rural townland where she was killed last week.

Outside the church in Mount Bolus in County Offaly there was a sense of profound sadness and bewilderment as friends, family and pupils gathered to pay their respects in this community convulsed by her death.

“There are only four houses between us and the Murphys,” said Paul Carroll. “There is a terrible sense of distraughtness everywhere. It’s like a blackness around us.”

His son, Ultan, a banjo player, played music with Murphy, a talented fiddle player. “I am completely shocked,” said the 17-year-old. “I couldn’t believe it for two days. You hear about bad things but you never think it’s going to happen here.”

Ultan is one of 200 players expected to answer a call on Monday night by Murphy’s sister Amy for local musicians to arrive at the church with their instruments and to play at the cemetery where Murphy will be buried after midday.

Pupils from Ashling Murphy’s class hold photographs of her and red roses outside St Brigid’s Church.
Pupils from Ashling Murphy’s school hold photographs of her and red roses outside St Brigid’s Church. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Thousands are expected to pay their respects, and a large screen has been erected in the local community centre next to the church to accommodate the crowds.

All along the approach roads to the village are shrines with candles, flowers and photos of Murphy, who was attacked while jogging along a canal path after she had finished school last Wednesday. Irish police are continuing to hunt for the killer.

Her parents, Raymond and Kathleen, sister, Amy, brother, Cathal and boyfriend, Ryan, will be among the mourners while many of her many friends from school, college, her local GAA club Kilcormac/Killoughey and musicians from Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann will also be in attendance.

The Irish president, Michael D Higgins, the taoiseach, Micheál Martin, and the justice minister, Helen McEntee, will also attend.

Teachers and pupils from Coolanarney National school in Blueball, where she went to school, will form a guard of honour.

Outside the church, Rosemary Bracken of the local music group Ballyboy Comhaltas said: “It is something that is going to be written into our history, that we never thought would be – the horrendous death of a young person at the deliberate hand of a stranger.

“We have dealt with tragedy here before, car accidents, deaths, but we have struggled with this. People just can’t process it.”

Among those arriving with musical instruments are children who had been taught by Ashling.

“The children, her pupils are very cut up,” said Catherine Buckley, a member the Comhaltas. “How do you explain to them what has happened?”

“We line up our children for many things, for music competitions, for fleadhs (festivals), for St Patrick’s Day but we never thought we would be lining up our children for something like this,” said Bracken who was organising the musicians at the cemetery.

Friends and campaigners are hoping that Murphy’s death will not be in vain and will lead to a centralised minister for issues relating to domestic, sexual and gender violence.

Mary McDermott, chief executive of Safe Ireland, said she hoped it would be a “catalysing” moment.

Government ministers (left to right) Pippa Hackett, Helen McEntee and Catherine Martin arrive for the funeral.
Government ministers (left to right) Pippa Hackett, Helen McEntee and Catherine Martin arrive for the funeral. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Louise Lovett, the chair of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, told RTÉ on Tuesday she hoped it would be a “watershed” moment. She said she sensed that Murphy’s death would be talked about for weeks and months to come and would heighten the pressure on the government to act.

Murphy will be laid to rest in Lowertown cemetery, following the funeral mass.

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