Some of those who attended last night's vigil in Mary Immaculate College for Ashling Murphy on Monday night
HUNDREDS of people gathered at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick on Monday evening to pay tribute to former student Ashling Murphy and hear the announcement that a scholarship will be created in her memory.
Ashling's parents Ray and Kathleen, sister Amy, brother Cathal, and her boyfriend Ryan Casey attended a vigil at the college where Ashling studied for her degree in education.
Higher Education Minister Simon Harris and Mayor of Limerick City and County Daniel Butler were among the crowd who gathered to remember the schoolteacher.
Ashling was murdered two weeks ago as she went for a run along the Grand Canal bank at Cappincur, Tullamore.
Traditional music was played live on stage during the vigil in memory of Ashling's proficiency as a musician and her favourite song 'When You Were Sweet Sixteen' was performed.
Jointly organised by Mary Immaculate College (MIC) and Mary Immaculate Students’ Union (MISU), the event also coincided with the return of students to campus for the first time since Ashling’s tragic death.
The 23-year-old was remembered as a “loving” and “generous” soul who touched the hearts of all who knew her.
One of Ashling's longtime friends spoke of how excited she was to start her degree at Mary Immaculate College and become a teacher, what she was “meant to be”.
She spoke fondly of the times they shared while studying at the college and the memories that Ashling made with her friends and classmates in Limerick.
Minister Harris said that he had spoken at podiums thousands of times but never before had he found it as hard to work out what to say.
“In recent days those of us who didn't have the honour of knowing Ashling have learnt of a talented musician, a passionate educator, a devoted sister, a keen sportswoman, a much, much loved daughter, sister and other half, and an amazing friend,” said Minister Harris.
“Our entire country is grieving the loss of Ashling and her loss is acutely felt here at MIC. I know that when she came here she came to follow her dreams.
“Her ability and talent is so evident from the glowing and heartfelt tributes from her peers but most movingly at all the tributes from her young pupils.
“I wanted to be here because I’m a man, a father, and a politician, and I know that our gender, and our profession, need to do better, we need to do much more. As fathers of young sons, we have a duty in how we raise them, in how we ensure they are part of a cultural change; as politicians we have got to change the system.”
Limerick City and County Mayor, Cllr Butler, also spoke of how the people of Limerick were all sending their love and support to Ashling's family.
Addressing them he said: “We are deeply honoured to have you in our city. We are deeply grateful that Ashling was amongst us.
“Ashling had a huge impact on many lives during her lifetime. Even in her passing she continues to have an incredible impact and she will continue to do so.
“The murder of Ashling Murphy has affected us all and our thoughts are with her family and friends and those closest to her as they begin to pick up from fragmented pieces of their lives and move on without her.
“Her death has left a massive hole in the lives of her family, friends, colleagues and pupils, a loss that still remain so utterly incomprehensible. The murder of Ashling has sent shockwaves through our society and shone a light on the safety of women.
“This candle light vigil is sending a powerful message to those in authority that something must be done to protect women.”
Ashling was remembered as “outgoing and carefree, someone who had everything going for her in life” by her college friends Laura Murray, Aoife Ní Shé, Nessa Murray and Tracey Murphy, who graduated with her just four months ago, in October 2021.
Poignantly, Monday’s vigil was held just metres from the same spot where Ashling received her parchment. Speaking at the vigil, Laura recalled their time at MIC: “Ashling and I always talked about how we hoped of getting enough points in our Leaving Cert to get into Mary I, as all she ever wanted to do was become a teacher, which she was born to do. She was so admired by many in our class and year group also. Natasha, our classmate, recalled to us last week how ‘if you walked into class alone and didn’t know where to sit, you’d go straight for Ashling’s table’, which highlights Ashling’s warmth and kindness to everyone she met.”
The gathered crowd also heard of Ashling’s academic achievements. Remembering her, Dr Ailbhe Kenny, who lectured Ashling in Music during her time at MIC, said: “Ashling was a hugely generous person. She shared her skills, knowledge and gifts widely. She supported her peers academically, she was a fellow musician in a trad session, she was a teammate on the pitch, and she was a good friend.”
“In particular, her musical generosity was exemplary. Ashling demonstrated so well what a full college life looks like. It is my hope that all students here at MIC immerse themselves in their courses of study, be present, share, play, run, and open themselves up to rich experiences while at MIC; just as Ashling did. Do not allow fear, anger, grief or sadness get in the way of any of that.”
President of MIC, Professor Eugene Wall, said: “We gathered here tonight ‘with one accord and in one place’ to mourn the loss of Ashling, to pay tribute to her, to honour her memory and to express our heartfelt solidarity with her grieving family and partner. Ashling exemplified the qualities of what it means to be an excellent primary teacher. She was warm, vivacious, caring, conscientious and so lavishly talented.”
Professor Wall said he had promised Ashling’s parents at her funeral that MIC would continue to cherish Ashling’s memory and he announced details of the creation of an Entrance Scholarship in her memory which will take account of her special talents.
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