The Minister for Further and Higher Education told a candlelit vigil in memory of teacher, Ashling Murphy that politicians, particularly men, need to stand up and take action against misogyny and violence against women.
The vigil, held on the grounds of Ms Murphy’s alma mater Mary Immaculate College (MIC) in Limerick last night, was attended by her heartbroken family.
Minister Simon Harris told the thousands of people assembled in the college grounds that he wanted to attend the vigil because he is a man, a father, and a politician, and he knew his gender and profession, needed to do better and 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.”
This change, the Minister affirmed, included his “duty to ensure that third level is safe, and that every single one of us, as men, must call out misogyny and we must stand up and speak out”.
Mr Harris became emotional as he encouraged those of Ms Murphy’s generation and future generations of women and men who he said “demand action for Ashling”, to keep shouting for change.
He said that politicians, including himself, “must be allies in that cause, and work with you to champion and to deliver that in every possible way we can”.
“So, tonight here we all commit to action for Ashling, because we owe it to her, we owe it to her beautiful family, and we owe it to you,” Mr Harris added.
President of MIC, Professor Eugene Wall, fought back tears as he welcomed Ms Murphy’s parents Kathleen and Raymond, sister Amy, brother Cathal, and her boyfriend Ryan, to the college where, “almost four months ago on this day, Ashling emerged, happily clutching her degree parchment having realised her long held ambition to become a primary teacher”.
Mr Wall said the MIC graduate’s killing had “sent shockwaves throughout the entire nation and abroad”.
MIC Chaplain Fr Michael Wall said Ms Murphy’s death which occurred in daylight on a public walkway while she was out enjoying a jog, had presented a national outpouring of “confusion, anxiety, sadness, anger, and upheaval” and that women, particularly, were suffering “with a range of fears and anxieties and worries”.
Fr Wall said while there had been various calls for change, he hoped for direction and wisdom “for our leaders, our politicians, our legislators, our law enforcement people, our leaders and influencers, to make decisions that will lead to a better life for all”.
Limerick Mayor Daniel Butler said that it was up to political leaders like himself “to make decisions, and, to make sure that Ashling’s loss is not a futile one”.
Maura Murray, a classmate from Tullamore who also studied at MIC with Ms Murphy, fought back tears paying a heartfelt tribute.
“All she ever wanted to do was to become a teacher, which she was born to do. Ashling loved her walks, the fresh air, being surrounded by nature, she had so many plans, we will keep (her) in our hearts and minds… forever, fly high with the angels,” she added.
Dr Ailbhe Kenny, who taught Ms Murphy at MIC, told those gathered at the vigil not to let fear of violence perpetrated by men against women to poison their right to walk, run, and enjoy their lives and freedom.
“Do not allow fear, anger, grief, or sadness, ever get in the way of any of that,” she declared.
Poems were recited, traditional Irish tunes and Irish Folk songs were played in front of a sea of candlelight that shone in the darkness, in memory of the young teacher who was an accomplished musician.