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Ennistymon honours Ashling

DUSK was gathering as the town of Ennistymon came to a standstill last Friday to honour the memory of Ashling Murphy. In solidarity with the town of Tullamore and communities all over Ireland, hundreds stood silently in The Square. The sense of sadness and shock at the murder of the 23 year-old teacher was palpable. The only sounds were the traditional airs that rang out to honour the talented young fiddle player, and muffled sobs when emotion became too much for some to bear. 

Tiny children, helped by the guiding hand of their parents, lined up to leave their candles and flowers. The pool of light around the memorial slowly grew brighter and stronger. Many children were the same age as the members of Ashling’s own first class at Durrow National School. Too young to take in such a terrible tragedy, they stared up at the solemn candle-lit faces of the adults around them. Stealing shy glances at each other, they swayed to the music. Their sense of pride was visible when they made their tributes to a woman who should have been a role model for their generation – a teacher, a musician, a camogie player, a light to guide them. 

One of those playing music in Ashling’s memory was another 23 year-old, Éilis Murphy, who travelled to Ennistymon for the vigil. 

“I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Ashling personally, but my sister competed with her in the Fleadhs and we always knew her as just a fabulous musician and a really nice girl,” Éilis told The Champion. “She was loved by everybody around her. She sounds like the most amazing person. I’m 23 as well. I’m the same age. Me and my sister play together as a duet. I’m concertina she’s fiddle. Her sister Amy plays concertina and she played fiddle, so it really hit hard. It could have happened to any one of us. I’m just shocked that it had to happen to her. It really hits home.

Senator Róisín Garvey said people in North Clare welcomed the chance to express their grief and solidarity with Ashling’s family and the community in Offaly. 

“This vigil was organised by lots of different people who did lots of different bits, there was no one organiser which was really nice,” she explained. “People don’t know how to express themselves This is a nice thing to be able to do. We are all so shocked by it.”

The Green Party member said she was impressed with the number of men who gathered to show their support.

“We see a lot of men here too, which is great,” she said. “I think the women are the victims, but I think we won’t have solutions until the men take this on as their problem… We need good men to step up and start organising events, and calling out their own gender, because 99% of these acts of violence are coming from men. We’ve been fighting as women’s groups for years to have supports around violence. And it’s not improving at all, it’s actually getting worse. So I really feel it’s time for the men to step up… Young men need role models and older men need brothers. You know, if it wasn’t for Men’s Sheds, lots of men would have no connection with anybody. So there’s a huge missing piece there from him. They learn shoulder to shoulder They need each other to do things with. And I suppose you need to invest more in those kinds of opportunities.

“I think some young men are brilliant and expressing themselves compared to the older generations who never were allowed to have any feelings about anything. And even men in their 40s and 50s… There’s thousands of men that were never allowed to have any words about their own mental health or their feelings or emotions. You know, Men brought home the bacon women reared the children and that stereotype has not does not fit. It’s not fit for purpose. And there’s a lot of work to be done but I think that until men come to the table, the good men, and they instigate charities and events and raising awareness for men, it’s not going to work.”

As the bells of the Church of Our Lady and St Michael rang out at 6pm, the Ennistymon vigil drew to a close. The gathering burst into a round of applause for the musicians, hushed conversations began as people put words to their feelings and hugged their loved ones tightly. 

Slowly people returned to their Friday evening lives and the bustle of traffic resumed, The Square burning bright with lights in memory of Ashling. 

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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