The SDLP’s Sinéad McLaughlin joined tributes to the Offaly schoolteacher who was killed while jogging along the Grand Canal in broad daylight last Wednesday.
Speaking in the Assembly yesterday Mrs. McLaughlin said: “Women across the island of Ireland are angry and upset at the murder of Ashling Murphy. But more than that, we are traumatised by it.
“Ashling did everything right – she was getting exercise in a public place and in broad daylight. But even talking about doing ‘everything right’ is itself wrong. Women have the right to walk safely home at night, they have the right to live with their partner without being hit, kicked, murdered. Yet too often that is what happens to women.”
Mrs. McLaughlin was expressing views that reverberated at vigils up and down the country over the weekend including at events at Guildhall Square on Friday and across Donegal.
She spoke of a ‘crisis’ of violence against women in the north. “And this is something that has been continuing over a period of years. This is why the work by The Executive Office for a strategy addressing violence against women and girls is so very, very important.
“We need to understand what is going wrong, why and how to put it right. But let us make it absolutely clear: The problem is not with women. We are the victims, we deal with the symptoms of a society that has at its heart something deeply wrong.”
The Derry MLA, speaking generally about violence against women, said: “It is not a new problem. But there are some men who create problems for all women – not only women who are murdered, or beaten, but all women who have to be wary of where we go and when and how we do it.
“And we look to men, in particular, to solve the problem of those men who abuse, who threaten, who murder. Women have had far, far more than enough – far more than we are willing to put up with.”
Hundreds of people meanwhile also attended a vigil in Carndonagh on Friday night to remember and pay tribute to the 23-year-old.
Among those who spoke were Sinead Smyth and Siobhan Shiels of Inishowen Together and Mary Doherty, Manager of Lifeline Domestic Violence service.
Ms. Doherty said the death of Ashling has had a ‘massive’ impact on people right across the country. She said many people have told her of their concerns for their children when they go out at night and ‘it really brought home how unsafe many people feel.’
She said society in general needs to become more aware of violence against women and gender inequality, adding that action needs to be taken.
“We don’t feel safe. We need to stand up, speak out and be heard and we need to do it all together, or there will be no change in this country.”
Today, at 11am, students in schools across Donegal will join with the rest of the south in a minute’s silence to honour the young teacher.
(See also Pages 8 and 18)