Funeral of Ashling Murphy under way in Co Offaly

·5 min read

The funeral of murdered teacher Ashling Murphy is under way in Co Offaly.

The body of the 23-year-old, a talented musician and teacher, was found on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, sparking a murder investigation.

Her death has intensified debate around women’s safety and prompted calls for more to be done to tackle gender-based violence.

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

Ashling Murphy funeral
Taoiseach Michael Martin arrives at St Brigid’s Church (Niall Carson/PA)

Huge crowds have gathered for the funeral in the village of Mountbolus, and outside St Brigid’s Church, where Ms Murphy’s funeral mass is being held.

The service is being livestreamed.

Irish president Michael D Higgins and Irish premier Micheal Martin are among those in attendance.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin are also attending.

Symbols of Ms Murphy’s life were brought to the altar during her funeral, including a fiddle, a Kilcormac/Killoughey camogie jersey, a family picture, a school book and her photo.

Parish priest Michael Meade told mourners that Ashling’s family has been “robbed of your most precious gift”.

“A gift that gave only joy and love, fun and laughter to many, many beyond yourselves and bounds of your own home,” Fr Meade added.

“Together we grieve, we pray, we hurt – this is the heavy price we pay for love – we gather as a family of faith, to be with, to support by our prayer and our presence, those whose darkness is deep, whose pain is raw and fierce.

“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.

“Not to talk about it but to simply give and show respect.”

He said that Ms Murphy’s love was “freely given and shared” through music, sport and her vocation as a teacher.

“Today we can only give thanks for having had small share in the privilege of sharing in this most wonderful and lovely human being.

Ashling Murphy funeral
Pupils from Ashling Murphy’s class hold photos in front of other mourners (Niall Carson/PA)

“Today we share our love, our grief, our faith and our comfort with the Murphy and Leonard families.”

Children outside the church held photographs of Ms Murphy and roses. The message next to Ms Murphy’s image read: “Fly high in the sky, Our shining light.”

Screens have been set up in Killoughey community centre and Kilcormac/Killoughey GAA pitch to cater for large crowds at the funeral.

Representatives from Ms Murphy’s local Gaelic football club as well as from her old school are in attendance at the parish church of Saint Brigid.

Schoolchildren provided a guard of honour outside the church prior to the funeral. A number of children also held fiddles and tin whistles.

Ms Murphy’s sister paid tribute to her on social media.

Amy Murphy described Ashling as the “light of our lives and the heart of our family”.

She asked musicians attending the funeral to bring their instrument and play music at the town’s lower cemetery after the funeral.

Ashling Murphy death
A bunch of red roses placed on the bridge across the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly (Niall Carson/PA)

Ms Murphy’s parents Raymond and Kathleen, and siblings Amy and Cathal and her boyfriend Ryan are among the chief mourners.

Schools across Ireland observed a minute of silence in her memory.

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

Police released a description of a man they want to speak to in relation to the teacher’s death.

They have asked anyone who saw a man dressed in a 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.

Officers have asked members of the public whether they saw this man walking in the Tullamore area, or if they gave the man a lift last Wednesday evening.

Ashling Murphy tributes
People leave candles and flowers at a makeshift shrine in Ms Murphy’s honour during a vigil at Leinster House, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The public has also been asked if they noticed the man loitering at any location or “involved in any activity which drew your attention”.

Police said that “significant progress” is being made but would not confirm any specific details.

It comes as they identified a new person of interest, who is believed to be receiving treatment in hospital in the Dublin region, and are waiting to speak to him.

As their investigation continues, gardai believe the development of DNA profiles will form an integral part in the search for Ms Murphy’s killer.

Police appealed to anyone who has not made contact with the investigation team and who has any information to come forward.

Gardai said in a statement: “We are now asking for any member of the public who was on the Grand Canal Way on the morning or afternoon of the January 12 between Digby’s bridge and Ballycommon to contact the investigation team.

Ashling Murphy death
Gardai beside the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly, where primary school teacher Ashling Murphy was found dead after going for a run on Wednesday afternoon (Niall Carson/PA)

“Whether you think you saw anything or not, please contact gardai in Tullamore.

“We continue to appeal for any information on a Falcon Storm mountain bike with straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front forks prior to 4pm on Wednesday and in the previous days and weeks.

“We are now asking for people in Tullamore to think about last Wednesday after 4pm and not to confine their thoughts to the Falcon Storm mountain bike.”

Gardai have also said they are concerned about people sharing information on social media, particularly private messaging apps.

Officers have appealed for people to stop sharing these messages.

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