Mourners at the funeral of murdered school teacher Ashling Murphy are told today how she “epitomised the beauty of life”.
The funeral mass for the 23-year-old was held at St Brigid’s Church in Mountbolus, Co Offaly on Tuesday morning.
Alongside her family and friends, the service was attended by the Irish President Michael D Higgins and the Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Many paying their respects also gathered outside the church while others watched the service online.
Pupils from Coolanarney National School in Blue Ball, where Ashling was a pupil, formed a guard of honour, as her remains were driven from the family home to the church.
Her first class pupils from Durrow National School also stood outside the church,
Inside there were emotional scenes as the Irish President and his wife Sabina comforted the family.
Several items important from Ashling’s life were then placed at the front of the church.
There has been a widespread sense of grief and anger across Ireland and beyond since the young teacher was attacked and killed while out for a run alongside the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly last Wednesday.
Later on Tuesday afternoon, January 18, Gardai said they had arrested a male in his 30s on suspicion of murder.
He is now detained in Tullamore Garda Station, and police said they had no further comment at this time.
With the huge amount of public attention on the funeral, an order of service was released in advance.
Parish Priest Fr Michael Meade was the chief celebrant and a final prayer was delivered by Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan.
Several of her cousins also gave readings during the service.
This included Ciara Leonard, who said her cousin “epitomised the beauty of life” and had shared her gifts, passion, gifts and talents with many others.
She also prayed for her friends, colleagues and students in Ballyboy Comhaltas, Kilcormac, Killoughey Camogie club and Scoil Naomh Colmcille, Durrow.
Aoife Leonard prayed for staff at Tullamore hospital and for Garda officers who had been a special comfort to the family in recent days.
Rachel O’Shea prayed that the many vigils that took place in memory of Ashling marked the beginning of an end to violence against women.
“May the candle light tributes bring an everlasting hope to all those who live in fear,” she said.
Delivering his homily, Fr Meade said: “Together we grieve, we pray, we hurt – this is the heavy price we pay for love – we gather as a family of faith, to be with, to support by our prayer and our presence, those whose darkness is deep, whose pain is raw and fierce. Kathleen and Ray, Cathal, Amy and her boyfriend, Ryan - you have been robbed of your most precious gift - a gift that gave only joy and love, fun and laughter to many beyond your family.”
He said it was his hope the issues raised “since this horrible act of violence invaded all our lives” would inspire the change needed in society “to simply give and show respect”.
Speaking of her early years, he said Ashling had led “a life of love, a life of hope, a life of trust”.
This was shown through her love of music, sport and her vocation as a teacher.
“Today we give thanks for the privilege of sharing in this most wonderful gift of Ashling Murphy, today we share our love, our grief, our faith and our comfort with the Murphy and Leonard families,” he said.
Bishop Deenihan told the family that the days since Ashling’s murder had been “a nightmare”.
“A walk on a mild and sunny afternoon in January should be a happy event, promising the brighter and warmer days of spring and summer,” he said.
"That, as we know, was not the case. A depraved act of violence which deprived a kind, talented, loved and admired young woman of her life has since united the country in grief and support.”
He said the crime had also asked questions of society and especially over attitudes towards women.
“Whether those questions will be addressed or passed over remains to be seen but we cannot allow such violence and disregard for both human life and bodily integrity take root in our time and culture,” he said.
He quoted Pope Francis’ homily for New Year’s Day just two weeks ago said that violence against women was an insult to God.
“We all know that no individual should die like Ashling and no family should suffer like Ashling’s,” the Bishop said.
"Respect is an old-fashioned word but it is an important one. Respect was missing last Wednesday but it has re-emerged here all the stronger. Let us respect each other.”
He also called for the grief and loss felt by her colleagues and pupils to be acknowledged.
“If there is a chink of light to last week’s darkness it must be the outpouring of support and sympathy that we have all seen,” he said.
"It was manifested at the various vigils, it was manifested by those who assisted here, at the family home and in Durrow school over the past few days by those who quietly and discreetly provided refreshments, stewarding and whatever help that they could. Community is important and community works. Community is needed to overcome evils such as this and community will be needed here in the weeks ahead.
“Today, we bury Ashling as we must. We bury a woman who lived the short years given to her to the full, who developed her talents, who reached out to others, who made a difference, who brought happiness and who was loved.”