By Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN – Thousands fell silent at candlelit vigils in towns and cities across Ireland on Friday in memory of a young jogger killed in broad daylight, in what campaigners called a “watershed moment” in the call to end violence against women.
Ashling Murphy was killed in her native Tullamore in the Irish midlands on Wednesday while exercising on a popular canal walkway. Police say the attack on the 23-year-old teacher was likely random and that the perpetrator is still at large.
The murder has shocked the country and around 100 vigils were organised the length and breadth of Ireland and Northern Ireland, including outside Dublin’s parliament where a minute’s silence was held at 4.30 p.m., close to the time Murphy was attacked.
“I’m sick of every time I hear a young woman is killed thinking ‘Oh my god, is it someone I know?’. There is an endemic worldwide of gendered violence against women,” said Sally Anne McCarthy, a 25-year-old law student holding a homemade sign saying “I want to feel safe”.
“Poor Ashling probably went out running thinking ‘if I go out now, I’ll be home before dark’. I and every young woman is absolutely sick of living our lives making all these changes to our behaviour just to feel safe. I shouldn’t have to live like that.”
Others piled flowers outside the gates of parliament, where they were joined by politicians including Prime Minister Micheál Martin. Murphy was a musician and friends played traditional Irish music as large crowds stood silent for an hour and packed the nearby streets.
The head of the National Women’s Council, which organised the main vigil, said the anger “without a doubt” represented a watershed moment in the campaign to end male violence against women.
Martin said the government has been working over the last year on a national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, the centrepiece of which is zero tolerance for violence against women.
“There is a culture in our society that creates the conditions in which violence against women happens and happens too frequently,” Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar added, saying the country was “reeling” from the murder.
“We as men have a particular responsibility to understand the factors that give rise to attitudes of violence against women and to teach our boys and to teach our teenagers about what’s right and wrong.”