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‘Society must be prepared to challenge misogyny’ says head of Women’s Aid Ireland ahead of Ashling Murphy’s funeral


A vigil held in Belfast City Centre on Friday for Ashling Murphy. (Press Eye)

A vigil held in Belfast City Centre on Friday for Ashling Murphy. (Press Eye)

A vigil held in Belfast City Centre on Friday for Ashling Murphy. (Press Eye)

Ahead of the funeral of the murdered school teacher Ashling Murphy this morning, the head of Women’s Aid in Ireland has said society must be prepared to challenge misogyny.

There has been an outpouring of grief and anger since the news broke of the 23-year-old being attacked and killed while out for a run alongside the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offally last Wednesday.

Her funeral will take place today at 11am in St Brigid’s Church, Mountbolus, and will be attended by both the Irish President Michael D Higgins and the Taoiseach Micheál Martin .

The service will also be livestreamed online.

The main suspect in the case remains in a Dublin hospital recovering from injuries that are believed to be self-inflicted.

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Speaking on BBC Good Morning Ulster, Women’s Aid Chief Executive Sarah Benson said her thoughts were with Ashling’s loved ones.

She also recognised it would be just one day in a process of coming to terms with the “unthinkable” tragedy of her life being stolen.

She said the public mood was very much a mixture of grief as well as anger over what happened.

Asked to put her death in context, Ms Benson said her organisation had maintained the Femicide Watch report in the Republic of Ireland since 1996, recording violent deaths against women.

This included those resolved and unresolved in the courts.

A total of 244 women including Ashling, she said, had died in violent circumstances of which 191 cases were resolved.

The vast majority (87%) were also killed by people known to them, mainly current or former intimate partners.

In a further 13% of cases the attacker was a stranger.

"It’s far more common that a woman’s own home will be the more dangerous place for her, quite different to men’s experience of extreme violence,” Ms Benson said.

"What this has done has really shaken every women and teenage girl and really shook out that almost instinctive recoil of ‘this could have been any of us’ and ‘is nowhere safe?’”

Ms Benson also recalled how she used to hold her keys as a weapon when walking to work and would stay on the phone to her partner the whole time to share her location.

"Every single woman I think has a story like that...I remember being kerb crawled at 15 on my way to school.

"What we’re saying is that of course women will be taking steps, and will be continue to take steps, to try and make themselves feel safe.

"But the reality is that if we’re going to actually tackle this as a society, focusing on what women can do, focusing on whether somewhere is well lit or not well lit...is not actually going to address the problem.

"The casual sexism, the everyday degrading dehumanising comments and actions, the small touches, which are the root from which you can have escalating and accumulating circumstances from which someone feels entitled to act out with most egregious violence...towards women.”

She said predators did not appear out of nowhere, and it was for society to confront the early signs that someone viewed women in a misogynistic way.

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