Thousands of people took part in a candle-lit vigil in Limerick City this evening in memory of murdered Offaly woman Ashling Murphy just three months after she graduated from the local Mary Immaculate College.
Local musicians softly played slow traditional Irish music airs as a sea of candles lit up Arthur’s Quay Park.
Social Democrat Councillor Elisa O’Donovan, who organised the vigil and who as been a strong voice in calling for change to a culture of misogyny as well as violence against women, fought back tears as she addressed the large attendance shortly after 6pm.
“I would like to thank you all for coming out this evening for us to share in grief together. On Wednesday afternoon a young woman went for a run and never came home again, and today we pay tribute to the life of Ashling Murphy, a beautiful 23-year old woman, exceptional student, and talented musician,” Cllr O’Donovan said.
“Her life was stolen from her, in what can only be described as every woman’s worst nightmare.”
“It is inconceivable to me that woman are not safe in public or private spaces, at nighttime or at 4pm in the afternoon, in a nightclub, or just going for a run. We are not safe anywhere and we are forced to carry this fear with us always.”
A minutes silence was observed after Cllr O’Donovan told those gathered: “While one light has gone out in the world, we shine our lights brightly in memory of Ashling Murphy.”
Joan Forde of Limerick Suicide Watch, said they were also present “in case anyone felt they needed to speak to someone” should they have experienced traumatic personal memories triggered by the horrific events in Offaly.
“We brought a counsellor with us to help if people feel they need someone to talk to, we are aware of raw emotions that have (surfaced) and a lot of people are feeling anguish through incidents that have happened in their own lives,” Ms Forde said.
Noelle Corbett, (40), Dooradoyle, said she and many other women live in constant fear of being attacked by men whenever they go outside their homes.
“I never walk alone, I always have someone with me, and I always have my mobile phone charged.It’s always in the back of all women’s minds.”
Natalie O’Callaghan, Watergate said: “A lot of women are scared going out walking, going to work, everything.”
Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea said the horrendous crime had galvanised the hearts and minds of the overwhelming majority of people in this country who are totally opposed to crime or violence against women of that sort.
He said the government will have to to implement a gender plan to protect women but added, “of course you can’t have 100 per cent protection, everybody knows that”.
“Something meaningful needs to be done now, and I’d be pretty confident there will be something done, but it is very sad it has taken a tragedy of this magnitude to get to this point,” he added.