There’s a deep sadness and anger across Ireland today as the nation tries to get it’s head around the senseless death of 23-year-old Ashling Murphy.

Ashling, a primary school teacher at Durrow National School, went to work as normal on Wednesday morning. 

Later that afternoon she went for a run along the Grand Canal bank in Tullamore, County Offaly – a popular place with runners and walkers. The route is known as Fiona’s Way, named after the missing Irish woman, Fiona Pender, who disappeared while seven months pregnant in 1996. 

While out running at four o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, Ashling was fatally attacked.

The adored youngest child of Kathleen and Raymond was described by her devastated parents as a ‘brilliant girl in every sense of the word’. 

She was a talented musician. The principal of the school where Ashling taught, James Hogan, said the young teacher was ‘a shining light’ and that ‘her pupils adored her’. Yesterday those same young pupils were told their beloved teacher would not be returning. 

Today, photos of the cards and pictures they made for their teacher’s memory box are being shared across the media.

‘Ms Murphy, I love you!’ reads one. It’s hard to look at them without feeling completely overwhelmed by sorrow.

We know little about the whys and wherefores of this heinous crime. There is no sense to any of it. 

‘She was just going for a run’ trended on Twitter as people tried to rationalise the normality of what Ashling was doing. Something countless people do all the time. Although it’s an everyday activity, one gender must always give it more consideration than the other. As they do many other things.

She had done everything the perceived correct way. It wasn’t late. She was running in an area where it was likely there would be other runners and walkers. Things women shouldn’t have to consider, but they do, because their safety is dependent on the actions of others. 

The calls and advice, the ways to make things safer for women, keep coming; self-defence lessons, personal alarms, check in with others, stick to daylight hours where possible, don’t drink too much and never leave your drink unattended. 

How many women carry keys in their hands as a weapon, or make that call from the back of a taxi late at night, speaking loudly enough to be heard and making sure someone knows exactly where they are?

How many of us have considered our footwear choices and whether it might help or hinder us if we needed to make a quick getaway? How many of us have felt our hearts racing or changed route because a man is walking behind us or too close to us and we just can’t be sure?

How many of us have done all the things we should do? Yet it’s never enough to stop harassment, degradation or violence against women at the hands of men. It will never be enough, because it’s not our responsibility – it’s the responsibility of men.

We know that it’s not all men. But all men have a role to play in changing this. Whether it’s the ‘harmless banter’, the supposedly appreciative catcall, or the degrading and offensive terms used to describe girls and women, justified as lads’ talk, it all serves to dehumanise and reduce women to objects. 

We need male allies to call it out and we need to talk to our sons as we raise them, and our other male relatives and friends about the importance of mutual respect and explain the very different challenges girls and women face. Otherwise nothing will ever truly change.

Whether it’s innocuous running or a fun night on the tiles, there is no blame on the part of women. There is no culpability on the part of women, it doesn’t matter what she was doing. There is no justification. The blame for gender based violence lies firmly with men.

Ashling was just going for a run and now she’s dead. A nation mourns at the devastating loss of a woman’s life. It’s not the first time it has happened. And sadly it won’t be the last.

Together, Ireland will join in sorrow and remember the shining light extinguished by violence as vigils take place all around the country in Ashling’s memory today.

We need justice for Ashling. We need justice for all the victims of gender based violence. And we need an end to violence against women.

Our hearts are broken. Rest in peace, Ashling.

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