Partner of Ashling Murphy describes her as a ‘shining light’

Ryan Casey paid tribute to his girlfriend, saying she was an “incredibly loving and beautiful” person.
Partner of Ashling Murphy describes her as a ‘shining light’

Thousands of people gathered for the funeral of the talented musician and teacher in the village of Mountbolus and outside St Brigid’s Church on Tuesday. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Update: The partner of tragic teacher Ashling Murphy has described her as a “shining light” who was always willing to help others and put herself last.

Ryan Casey paid tribute to his girlfriend, saying she was an “incredibly loving and beautiful” person.

The body of the 23-year-old was found on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly, sparking a murder investigation.

Thousands of people gathered for the funeral of the talented musician and teacher in the village of Mountbolus and outside St Brigid’s Church on Tuesday.

“It is simply not possible to explain what Ashling meant to myself, her family, friends,” Mr Casey said.

“All I’d like to say in this moment and time is that Ashling was our shining light. She loves her mum Kathleen, her father Ray, her big sister Amy and big brother Cathal and all of her family and friends so much.

“She was always there, always willing to help anybody, anywhere, at any time, and always put herself last.

“She had so many talents which combined made her an incredibly loving and beautiful person. We were all so lucky to know and love and spend as much time with her as possible.

“She is the greatest love of my life. I will cherish the last five years we spent together for my entire life. I hope that some day, God willing, we can be reunited once more and continue the great plans we had made for each other.

“Goodbye for now, but not forever, darling. Ashling shall live on in all of our hearts.”

Earlier: A “depraved act of violence” which deprived Ashling Murphy of her life has united the country in grief and support, mourners at her funeral have been told.

Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan said the murder of the 23-year-old woman has asked questions of “ourselves and of society”.

The body of Ms Murphy, a talented musician and teacher, was found on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore in Co Offaly, sparking a murder investigation.

Her death has intensified debate around women’s safety and prompted calls for more to be done to tackle gender-based violence.

School children from 1st class Durrow National School with family friends and mourners arriving for the funeral of Ashling Murphy at the Church of Saint Brigid Mountbolus.
School children from 1st class Durrow National School with family friends and mourners arriving for the funeral of Ashling Murphy at the Church of Saint Brigid Mountbolus.

Huge crowds gathered for the funeral in the village of Mountbolus, and outside St Brigid’s Church, where Ms Murphy’s funeral mass is being held.

Bishop Deenihan told mourners that Ms Murphy’s murder has questioned attitudes, particularly attitudes towards women, and “our values and morality”.

“Whether those questions will be addressed or passed over remains to be seen but we cannot allow such violence and disregard for both human life and bodily integrity take root in our time and culture,” he added.

“The past few days have been a nightmare. A walk on a mild and sunny afternoon in January should be a happy event, promising the brighter and warmer days of spring and summer.

“That, as we know, was not the case. A depraved act of violence which deprived a kind, talented, loved and admired young woman of her life has since united the country in grief and support.

“We all know that no individual should die like Ashling and no family should suffer like Ashling’s.

“Respect is an old-fashioned word but it is an important one. Respect was missing last Wednesday but it has re-emerged here all the stronger.

“Let us respect each other.”

Earlier: The funeral of murdered teacher Ashling Murphy is under way in Offaly.

The body of the 23-year-old, a talented musician and teacher, was found on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, sparking a murder investigation.

Her death has intensified debate around women’s safety and prompted calls for more to be done to tackle gender-based violence.

Tens of thousands of people have also attended vigils in recent days to honour Ms Murphy.

Garda outriders escort the hearse as it arrives at St Brigid's Church, Mountbolus, Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Garda outriders escort the hearse as it arrives at St Brigid's Church, Mountbolus, Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Huge crowds have gathered for the funeral in the village of Mountbolus, and outside St Brigid’s Church, where Ms Murphy’s funeral mass is being held.

The service is being livestreamed.

Irish president Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin are among those in attendance.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin arrives at St Brigid's Church, Mountbolus. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Micheál Martin arrives at St Brigid's Church, Mountbolus. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Children outside the church held photographs of Ms Murphy and roses. The message next to Ms Murphy’s image read: “Fly high in the sky, Our shining light.” 

Screens have been set up in Killoughey community centre and Kilcormac/Killoughey GAA pitch to cater for large crowds at the funeral.

Representatives from Ms Murphy’s local Gaelic football club as well as from her old school are in attendance at the parish church of Saint Brigid.

Guard of honour from pupils 

Schoolchildren provided a guard of honour outside the church prior to the funeral. A number of children also held fiddles and tin whistles.

Ms Murphy’s sister paid tribute to her on social media.

Amy Murphy described Ashling as the “light of our lives and the heart of our family”.

She asked musicians attending the funeral to bring their instrument and play music at the town’s lower cemetery after the funeral.

Ms Murphy’s parents Raymond and Kathleen, and siblings Amy and Cathal and her boyfriend Ryan will be among the chief mourners.

Teacher unions have urged schools across Ireland to observe a minute of silence in her memory.

Investigation 

It comes as Irish police investigating the death of Ms Murphy renewed an appeal for information, saying “significant progress” has been made in the murder probe.

Police released a description of a man they want to speak to in relation to the teacher’s death.

They have asked anyone who saw a man dressed in a black tracksuit top with no hood, black tracksuit bottoms with a large white stripe or white writing on the side and black runners to come forward.

Officers have asked members of the public whether they saw this man walking in the Tullamore area, or if they gave the man a lift last Wednesday evening.

The public has also been asked if they noticed the man loitering at any location or “involved in any activity which drew your attention”.

Police said that “significant progress” is being made but would not confirm any specific details.

It comes as they identified a new person of interest, who is believed to be receiving treatment in hospital in the Dublin region, and are waiting to speak to him.

As their investigation continues, gardaí believe the development of DNA profiles will form an integral part in the search for Ms Murphy’s killer.

Police appealed to anyone who has not made contact with the investigation team and who has any information to come forward.

Gardai said in a statement: “We are now asking for any member of the public who was on the Grand Canal Way on the morning or afternoon of the January 12 between Digby’s bridge and Ballycommon to contact the investigation team.

“Whether you think you saw anything or not, please contact gardaí in Tullamore.

“We continue to appeal for any information on a Falcon Storm mountain bike with straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front forks prior to 4pm on Wednesday and in the previous days and weeks.

“We are now asking for people in Tullamore to think about last Wednesday after 4pm and not to confine their thoughts to the Falcon Storm mountain bike.” 

Gardai have also said they are concerned about people sharing information on social media, particularly private messaging apps.

Officers have appealed for people to stop sharing these messages.

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