‘She was just going for a jog’ - vigil at the Guildhall in Derry for Ashling Murphy

There was anger, frustration and sorrow today (Friday) at the steps of the Guildhall as people gathered for a vigil for Ashling Murphy, who was murdered on Wednesday, January 12.

By Daire Ní Chanáin
Friday, 14th January 2022, 8:06 pm
Candle and message at the vigil for Ashling Murphy held at the Guildhall Steps on Friday afternoon. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2202GS – 081
Candle and message at the vigil for Ashling Murphy held at the Guildhall Steps on Friday afternoon. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2202GS – 081

The vigil was held at 4pm, around he time Ashling was beaten to death while out for a jog in a random attack in Tullamore, County Offaly.

The vigil was organised by Alliance for Choice to express the fear and anger felt by women in light of the tragedy and to better equip men to help end femicide and violence towards women.

Sofia McFeely from Alliance for Choice said, “Yesterday when I heard the news about our fellow sister Ashling, I felt a harrowing sorrow deep inside me. A pain that hits home for every woman grieving the death of another. A pain that reminds us of our own mortality, living in a world so unsafe to exist in as a woman.

A young girl attending the vigil for Ashling Murphy places a message on the Guildhall Steps on Friday afternoon. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2202GS – 082

“There comes a time in every single one of our lives, so often in childhood that we realise our bodies are not our own. Suddenly we’re objects for assault and battery at the hands of men. We cover up our bodies around male family members and male strangers just incase. Because you just never know.

“We share our location with our friends just in case. Because you just never know.

“We plan our route home in daylight and in a public place just in case. Because you just never know.

“In the case of Ashling and so man others, it’s just not enough.

Martina Anderson and Karen Mullan were among the many women attending the vigil for Ashling Murphy who placed candles and flowers on the Guildhall Steps on Friday afternoon. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2202GS – 083

“Men are taught at a young age that we are not human, we are just objects. They consume violent porn that normalises that behaviour and further objectifies us.”

Maureen Molloy’s daughter lives and works in Tullamore and she has walked along the walkway where Ashling was killed. She is feared for her daughter’s life and the life of all other women because this tragedy happened so close to home.

“It’s just a walkway, it’s like walking along the Quay here. Ashling was going for a run after school. I’m between angry and mad and upset because I want to think of Ashling’s family. They are a Comhaltas family. Derry has Comhaltas families so the idea of that happening to anybody else by anybody is very very worrying. I have mixed emotions of a stranger, I can’t imagine what her family are going through,” she said.

Shannon Patterson, on behalf of Bethany Moore from Alliance for Choice, said, “We gather here today to remember, honour and mourn the lovely Ashling Murphy. We are sending our sincerest condolences to her family, friends and we stand with their community In Tullamore, county Offaly.

Martina Anderson and Karen Mullan were among the many women attending the vigil for Ashling Murphy who placed candles and flowers on the Guildhall Steps on Friday afternoon. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2202GS – 083

“Ashling is described by her adoring father as “a brilliant girl in every sense of the word, the youngest, a little angel.” A woman of many talents she was well-known within the community as a great worker and a marvellous musician.

Ashling was a valued member of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the largest group to promote Irish traditional music. They note she was the finest exponents of the concertina and fiddle and was also learning the pipes. She has featured in our “Comhaltas Concert Tours and was also a valued member of the Comhaltas National Folk Orchestra of Ireland. Ashling was also a marvellous hurler according to her loving mother, who played camogie with the local club since she was five years of age” Her new years resolution was to take up jogging.

“One of Ashling’s most recent achievements was graduating and becoming a teacher. Her students have shown an outpouring of their gratitude towards her by leaving her cards and notes of love for her. One young student said that “she was brilliant, she loved bright colours and she always helped me when I was stuck”

“Ashling is the same age as me. At 23, as cliché as it sometimes sounds, the world truly is your oyster. It is the time to maybe fall in love, to fall out of it, to travel, to begin your career and to figure out who you are. At 23, young women have barely scratched the surface of living. How dare anyone take that away from Ashling.

People who attended the vigil for Ashling Murphy held at the Guildhall Steps on Friday afternoon. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2202GS – 088

Women truly are a collective. When one of us is so violently and needlessly snatched from this earth, all of us feel the pain. A headline from the Irish Examiner yesterday read, ‘We say their names aloud. Sarah Everard. Sabina Nessa. Ashling Murphy. And we wonder which one of us will be next.’

“For us, this unfortunately is not a one off. This is not an over exaggeration or unnecessary paranoia. For us this is our everyday.

“We walk home with keys gripped tight between our fingers. We have our headphones in but nothing playing so we can hear our surroundings. We cross the street when we see someone else along it. We change our routes. We wear the right shoes to get away faster. We change our clothes to avoid unwanted attention, or to avoid blame if something does happen. We shrink and grow smaller and diminish ourselves to nothing in the mere hopes of staying unharmed and alive. Well I say no more.

“The problem is not us. The problem has never been us.

“Ireland has a misogyny problem. Since 1996, 244 women in the republic have been murdered. If you had an hours vigil for each of them, you’d be there for just under two weeks. The North is the most dangerous place in Europe for women, with 11 women being murdered since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are not alone in this. In the 6 months following Sarah Everard’s murder there were a further 81 women murdered in the UK. Between 2008-2018 there were 1,425 women murdered in the UK. 9/10 times the killer was a man

Sophia McFeely, Alliance for Choice Derry, speaking at the vigil for Ashling Murphy held at the Guildhall Steps on Friday afternoon. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2202GS – 089

“The onus can no longer be placed on women, when the problem is so clearly male. We need men to step up and step in when they hear see other men cat-call, make misogynistic jokes or grab somewhere they shouldn’t. When these so-called ‘casual tokens of misogyny’ are allowed, they make space for the horrific crimes that many men are shocked and appalled by.

“I know many of us feel it. We are deflated, heartbroken and exhausted by the constraints that patriarchy, misogyny and violence holds on our everyday life. But that’s why we are here today. Let our collective grief and pain bring you solace that you are not alone. Today we remember Ashling Murphy and all our sisters who have been taken before their time. And we remind ourselves, that the price we pay for existing, cannot and will not be to live in fear.”

A Romanian man was arrested shortly after the murder but has since been cleared. Ciara O’Connor-Pozo said that people should not use his arrest as an excuse for xenophobia.

She said, “It’s important to address in the wake of the arrest made of the mad who has now been released, a lot of people saw a chance for xenophobia and to say it’s a problem with immigrants. That is absolutely not the case. This isn’t a problem of nationality. Ireland should be a place where everyone is welcome, no matter where they come from, their religion or the colour of their skin and you do not serve the cause of feminism and you do not stand up for women’s rights if you then turn around and attack immigrants and ethnic minorities. So we want to make that very clear.

“It’s very true that none of us are safe until all of us are safe. Ashling was murdered at this time, it is broad daylight. She was just going for a jog. We’re not safe on our streets, we’re not safe in our homes.

There were ministers saying that maybe we should go for a jog in the gym instead, which is completely wrong because you’re putting the onus on women. We already walk home with keys between our fingers, ring a friend when we walk home alone. We’ve all felt that prickle on the back of our neck when we walk home alone in the dark. We’ve all felt that pit in our stomach as we walked past a group of men who catcalled us and then laughed as they saw we were uncomfortable. It’s all about power. They have been taught that they have power over women and that they have ownership of our bodies and that needs to stop. We can’t keep doing this.

“We stood here over a year ago on these same steps and it was Sarah Everard’s death that we talked about at the hands of a police officer, someone who is supposed to keep us safe. We don’t know who attacked Ashling but if we’re not safe on the streets and we’re not safe in our homes then what are we supposed to do?”

Beverly Simpson from North West Migrants Forum said, “As I look around and I reflect on what happened to Ashling, I see faces all for one cause, standing here together, united with grief. United in anger, united in despair. Thinking about the safety of our young girls. Thinking of the safety of young women. Thinking of the safety of women as a whole. We know women are the foundation of our homes. If we lose our young girls to murder, what becomes of our society?

“It hurts just thinking about this young lady. She was a school teacher, only in her 20s, who went for a jog at 4pm. When is a safe time to take a walk? This is the time the school buses come. The girls are getting off the busses. It’s time us a society think ‘how do we keep our girls safe?’ If not for ourselves, for our future. It reflects on us all when young girls are beaten to death at 4pm. We all feel it. We all feel it in different ways and we grieve for that family. It could’ve been our daughter. It could have been our mother, or sister. AS we leave here at some point today, go home thinking about how we can keep the next person safe.”

Poet Mel Bradley was met by cheers of agreement as she read her poem ‘Vigil(ant)’:

We’ve all done it drunk or sober

That late night call to a friend

“Hey babe, it’s just me.

I’m on my way home

And I thought I’d give you a call

Is that alright?”

It always is

Because we know

The unspoken fear that if something happens

At least a friend will hear

We plan our routes, with street lighting

Strategising our existence

Keys clamped between fingers

Held stiffly in pockets

Earphones in but no music on

Hairspray not pepper spray

Or we might get done

For trying to protect ourselves

We’re told to stay alert

Be on guard

Don’t be alone

Tell someone where you’re going

Let someone know when you get home

My daughter sends me a message

“Can I call you?

I’m walking home from college

And it’s kind of dark

It’s only half an hour

But with the pace, I can’t text.”

I thought the company would be nice.

She asks me this on a day when a young woman

Is murdered in daylight.

And collectively, we, as women

Are desperately trying to re-evaluate

Truth is it’s only 13% of all femicides

In Ireland

Are committed by strangers

The rest are men we will know

Sitting in a bar, a male friend boldly claims

Rape culture doesn’t exist

It’s a figment of our imagination

Thinks backing it up by spouting

The names of third wave feminists

I’ll never read, will give him credit

I ask him

When there’s more likelihood

Of a conviction for shoplifting

That a caution for rape

When legal eyes have moved from

What dress she was wearing

To her underwear intent

When the police are handing out

Leaflets telling us that being drunk

Is asking for it

What kind of culture does he think

We live in then?

What kind of culture does he think

We are living in then?

In March 2017 women from 56 countries

Across the globe got together

Went on strike

Took to public spaces

To demand an end to

Violence against women

And girls

We spoke out publicly of all these things

Later that year, the me too movement happened

And suddenly women everywhere were sharing their stories

Loudly

Men started asking questions

Instead of ‘how can I help?’

‘What can I do?’

It was

How will I know if it’s ok to compliment a woman in a bar?

Yesterday we heard over and over again

‘She did everything she should have’

Why are we the only ones

Who have to check ourselves

On how we behave?

Over and over again,

Every time a woman is attacked

Assaulted

Murdered

We hear ‘not all men’

But it is all men

If it’s my responsibility as a woman

To make sure that

I keep myself and my sisters safe

Then by God it is your responsibility

To check in on your brothers

Your sons

Your gender

To make sure they know

That violence is never ok

It’s not a bit of banter

It’s not just messing around

It’s not just

We are not just play things.

Stop killing us

Stop raping us

Stop destroying us.

The vigil will remain at the steps of the Guildhall until Saturday, January 15 for anyone who wants to pay their respects.

One of the placards at the vigil for Ashling Murphy held at the Guildhall Steps on Friday afternoon. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2202GS – 090
People at the vigil for Ashling Murphy place candles and flowers on the Guildhall Steps on Friday afternoon. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2202GS – 0100