Tributes have been paid to Offaly teacher Ashling Murphy who was fatally attacked on Wednesday while out jogging along a canal towpath.
Bouquets of flowers and a candle were left on the bank of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, as reported in The Irish Times, close to where Ms Murphy was killed.
One unsigned message from a local person, which was left with flowers, read: “You were one of the kindest girls I’ve met. Always helpful, always had a smile on your face. You were a great mentor on and off the pitch. Fly high angel. Rest in Peace.”
The principal of Durrow NS where Ms Murphy taught first class, James Hogan, described the newly qualified teacher as “a shining light”.
“Her pupils adored her,” he told RTÉ radio’s News at One.
Children had been coming into school this morning with tears in their eyes, he said, while she was not there, she was not forgotten by her class or her colleagues.
The school community was devastated to have lost a colleague and a friend, a person who brought light with her and who would put a smile on anyone’s face, he added.
Mr Hogan said that the children in the school had been invited to write “little messages” to Ms Murphy which were being put into a memory box for her.
Although she had been in the school for a relatively short time (since March 2021) she had made a “huge impact” and “fit in so well”, said Mr Hogan. “Her personality, her bubbliness, her smile, her talents. She would reach out to any child.
“She was one in a million. It’s heartbreaking that it was all taken from her.”
The priority of the school community today was to care for the children and staff and supports had been put in place. Staff had met early this morning for a briefing at which “there were waves of tears” he said.
Mr Hogan said that the thoughts and prayers of everyone in the school were with the Murphy family as they attempt to cope with the loss of their lovely daughter.
Tina Stones, who works in the corner shop nearby, said: “A sad day for women, sad that you can't go for a walk in broad daylight and feel safe. She was after working a hard day and never made it home.
“I find it hard to talk about it because I get too upset. It's horrific. Even last night someone commented that there was no-one out walking the streets on their own.
“Normally women would be out walking early.
It's a sad day for women and a sad day for Ireland that this happened.
“We all walk there and everyone knows everyone who walks it, and you all say hello to each other.”
Speaking to The Irish Times, Frank Kelly, the former principal at the school where Ms Murphy worked said: “She was a shining light as a teacher, the children in her class adored her. Her word was gold, they worshiped the ground she walked on.”
“She was an absolute gem. She came to the school as a substitute teacher in March 2021 and was then put on a fixed term position from September.
“Ashling was very musical, she had recently bought a set of uilleann pipes and was going to learn how to play them, they are a very difficult instrument to master, but no obstacle was too big for her.
“She also loved her sports and was involved with the choir.
“Her smile would light up a room.”
The president of Mary Immaculate College (MIC) in Limerick, where Ms Murphy studied, said: “The entire MIC community is heartbroken and shocked to the core to hear of the tragic and senseless killing of Ashling Murphy who graduated from MIC only three months ago.
“Our heartfelt sympathy go out to her family, friends, colleagues and pupils. RIP Ashling.”
The entire MIC community is heartbroken and shocked to the core to hear of the tragic and senseless killing of Ashling Murphy who graduated from MIC only three months ago. Our heartfelt sympathy go out to her family, friends, colleagues and pupils. RIP Ashling.
— Eugene Wall (@President_MIC) January 13, 2022
In a statement on Twitter, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) said: “We offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Ashling Murphy, her colleagues and pupils at Scoil Naomh Colmcille and all who knew her.”
We offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Ashling Murphy, her colleagues and pupils at Scoil Naomh Colmcille and all who knew her. pic.twitter.com/TyA84mHVEu
— INTO (Irish National Teachers' Organisation) (@INTOnews) January 13, 2022
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee expressed her shock at the killing, urging anyone with information that could help solve the crime to come forward immediately.
“My thoughts tonight are with the family of the young woman killed in a truly shocking crime, with her friends and with her community,” she tweeted.
“Please anyone with information, come forward to An Garda Síochána. The gardaí will investigate this awful crime and ensure justice is done.”
My thoughts tonight are with the family of the young woman killed in a truly shocking crime, with her friends and with her community.
Please anyone with information, come forward to An Garda Síochána. The Gardai will investigate this awful crime and ensure justice is done.
— Helen McEntee TD (@HMcEntee) January 12, 2022
Declan Harvey, Fianna Fáil councillor for the area, said: “I want to extend my sympathies to Ashling’s father, mother and all her extended family.
“I am devastated. I couldn’t sleep last night thinking of it all because it is a place I go all the time.
“She went there jogging, she does it regularly. I am lost for words.”
Mr Harvey said it is a route that he and his family often walk.
“Tullamore is probably the safest place in the world, and after yesterday people will be nervous to go down to the canal,” he added.
“It’s a lovely area and helps clear your head. It’s a very popular route that everyone takes. People walk their dogs, people with their kids and prams.”
Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowan, who represents Laois-Offaly, said the community was in shock.
“Our locality, like the whole country is stunned and numbed,” he said.
“Thoughts, prayers with her family, friends, colleagues and community.”
Our locality like the whole country is stunned and numbed. Thoughts, prayers with her family, friends, colleagues and community.
— Barry Cowen (@CowenBarry) January 13, 2022
Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan also expressed her sympathies online.
“A young woman can’t even go for a run along a canal pathway – at four o’clock in the middle of the day – only to be attacked and murdered,” she tweeted.
“Sincere sympathies to her family. We need to urgently address why we live in a country where this can happen.”
A young woman can’t even go for a run along a canal pathway- at four o’clock in the middle of the day -only to be attacked & murdered 😰Sincere sympathies to her family. We need to urgently address why we live in a country where this can happen!
— Josepha Madigan ⚖️✨ (@josephamadigan) January 12, 2022
Fianna Fáil councillor Tony McCormack said he and the “entire community of Tullamore are shocked that this could happen.”
“Tullamore is a safe, peaceful town. I live 400 metres from where the incident happened, and I use that canal three or four days a week. It is not a secluded area; it would be quite busy.”
“She did everything right. She went to a public place in broad daylight. For someone to do something like that in broad daylight just shocks you to your core,” he said.
Carol Nolan, Independent TD for the Constituency of Laois Offaly said: “Grief has descended on Tullamore and the local community following confirmation of Ashling's tragic death.
"For Ashling's family this is a horror beyond comprehension. Our hearts are breaking for them, and with them."
Gardaí investigating the suspected say “no stone will be left unturned” in bringing her killer to justice.
- Additional reporting by PA and Vivienne Clarke