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Hundreds gather at Belfast City Hall to pay tribute to murdered Offaly teacher Ashling Murphy

Hundreds gathered outside Belfast City Hall on Friday evening to pay tribute to Ashling Murphy, the 23-year-old woman who was murdered in Co Offaly on Wednesday.

The Belfast event took place at 4pm, the same time as multiple other vigils across the island of Ireland were also being held in memory of the young primary school teacher. 

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill attended the event, and described it as a "watershed moment" in highlighting the issue of violence against women.


Flowers were laid outside Belfast City Hall - Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Flowers were laid outside Belfast City Hall - Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Flowers were laid outside Belfast City Hall - Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Described by her father Raymond as “a marvellous musician”, a touching musical tribute to Ashling was performed at the vigil by some of the Irish traditional musicians she knew, two of whom played previously with her in the National Folk Orchestra of Ireland. 

Multiple politicians attended the tribute ceremony, including Belfast mayor Kate Nicholl and SDLP MP for south Belfast, Claire Hanna.

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The event was organised by Reclaim the Night and the Belfast Feminist Network, organisations which aim to “highlight the need for action against gender-based violence and harassment in Northern Ireland”. 

Following the reading of a poem highlighting the issue of violence against women, the crowd paused for a minute's silence.

One of the vigil organisers, Emma Gallen, said: "We all saw the news, we all saw about Ashling Murphy, and we all thought we had to do something.

"We couldn't just stand by and not acknowledge that a murder happened in daylight of someone who was at the beginning of her life.

"We wanted to mark the grief that we all feel and to come together to mark how sad we all are, and how angry we all are."

Ms O'Neill said there had been an "outpouring of grief" following the murder.

She said: "At the start of this week I launched a strategy. I called for views in terms of developing a strategy to tackle male violence against women.

"Little did I know on Monday that I'd be standing here only a short number of days later, joining with other women who have gathered here outside Belfast City Hall to show solidarity to the family and all that loved Ashling Murphy.

"A horrific murder of another woman in our society at the hands of a male. We are all here because we want to show that support, that love.

"There has been an outpouring of grief all week for Ashling Murphy and for all that loved her."

The Mid Ulster MLA said vigils taking place across Ireland demonstrated women saying that violence against them needs to stop now.

"We are here because we are saying enough is enough. It needs to stop, the violence against women and girls needs to stop now. Male violence against women and girls needs to stop now.

"I think the sheer fact that right across every town, village and county across this island today people are gathering in large numbers to remember Ashling Murphy shows that women have had enough.

"We are entitled to feel safe, we are entitled to be safe. We are entitled to go for a run. We are entitled to go to work and feel safe, we are entitled to go to the shops and feel safe.

"I think this is a watershed moment in our society today."

Events took place at a number of other locations in Northern Ireland including Portrush and Newry.

 A new suspect for Ashling’s murder has also been identified on Friday.

The man is currently being treated at a hospital but is understood to be under “discreet surveillance” by gardai.

He is not in any way linked to the innocent man who arrested shortly after Ashling’s body was discovered along a popular canal walk in Tullamore on Wednesday.

It comes after a man who was wrongly arrested was released late last night. He has gone into hiding for his own safety.

“The last thing she’d say in the morning going out was ‘Mam, I love you’,” her devastated mother Kathleen said.

“She was a great worker, with great drive. A marvellous musician. She crammed so much into her short life. She played with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí all over Ireland and all over the UK on the tours. She was in their youth choir and senior orchestra,” added her father. 

““She was a brilliant girl in every sense of the word. She was just a special girl. She’s the youngest, a little angel."

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