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A vigil in the Fairgreen in Ennis on Saturday evening for Ashling Murphy. Photograph by Arthur Ellis.

Organiser of Ashling vigil ‘overwhelmed’ with public response

THE organiser of last Saturday’s walk and run in Ennis to honour of the memory of murdered teacher Ashling Murphy has said he was “overwhelmed” with the response.

Around 1,000 people gathered at the Fair Green to walk and run at 4pm in memory of Ashling, culminating in a poignant candle lit vigil with music and minute’s silence.

Supported by The Clare Champion, the event was initiated by John Condon, who hopes the tragedy of Ashling’s killing will not be in vain by resulting in more being done to address violence against women.

“Will this be the tipping point where we say enough is enough? There have been some brutal killings, some right here in Clare, and at some stage there has to be a tipping point, hopefully this might be it. However, addressing this is a monumental task, it’s education at home, education at school, educating of young men on how to respect women, it has to do with social media, the court services. It’s right across the whole spectrum.”

Commenting on the event, John Galvin managing director of the Clare Champion said, “Like everyone in Ireland, I was shocked and horrified by what befell Ashling Murphy and I wanted to offer people the chance to come together in solidarity.

“It made sense to use the Fair Green to allow for social distancing and we came up with the idea of lighting up the track with candles. We were humbled by the large turnout and we felt it was important to allow people to express their feelings in their own way. It was a very moving event and I hope that it will marks a sea change in our attitudes to violence in Irish society.”

Mr Condon explained he knows several of Ashling Murphy’s friends through monthly singing sessions in Spancilhill and he was moved to try and do something to remember her following her tragic death.

“The fact that she was so young, and that it happened in broad daylight I think resonated with so many people throughout the country. I thought that because she lost her life while running at four o’clock then we could do something at that time in a place people exercise. I put the idea for the run up on social media and people responded quite quickly, and John Galvin made contact so we came together on it.

“When I first came up with the idea for a run or walk, I thought maybe 40 or 50 people might show an interest, but I couldn’t get over how it took off. It was just fantastic to see, I was overwhelmed. While I had no doubt that women would get involved, it was great to see that men quickly responded as well.

“On the day myself and my older son went to the Fair Green at about 3.45pm and we just started walking, maybe 12 or 15 joined us. By the time we did a second lap, still before 4pm, there was probably 50 to 100 people on the track. And by the time we were doing a third lap, I’d say there was 300 to 400 people walking around. There was also quite an amount of people standing, perhaps they didn’t feel able for the walk, but they were showing their support.

“At 5pm when we held the vigil there were even more people, it got to the stage where people were putting candles on the track and on other rocks because there wasn’t any more room. It was fantastic to see as it got darker, it looked so well it was so poignant, and having musicians as well really added to it given Ashling’s involvement with music. There were no speeches, no agendas, just total unity and dignity.”

He has also received messages from people who were unable to make the event, but who also wanted to show their support.

“There were some who got there later in the evening and just went to the rocks where the candles were and stayed and said a little prayer or whatever they wanted to do to pay homage. It was fantastic to see the numbers that came out on Saturday. I’ve had messages from people to say that it helped give them a focal point to go and show solidarity and sorrow.”

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