The Minister for Further and Higher Education has told a vigil held in memory of Ashling Murphy that politicians, particularly men, need to stand up and take action against misogyny and violence against women.
Simon Harris told thousands of people gathered with candles on the grounds of Ms Murphy’s alma-mater, Mary Immaculate College (MIC) in Limerick: “I wanted to be here because I’m a man, a father, and a politician, and I know that our gender, and our profession, need to do better, we need to do much more.
“As fathers of young sons, we have a duty in how we raise them, in how we ensure they are part of a cultural change; as politicians we have got to change the system.”
This change, Mr Harris said, included his “duty to ensure that third-level is safe, and that every single one of us, as men, must call out misogyny and we must stand up and speak out”.
The Minister became emotional as he encouraged those of Ms Murphy’s generation and future generations to keep shouting for change.
Mr Harris said politicians, including himself, “must be allies in that cause, and work with you to champion and to deliver that in every possible way we can”.
“So, tonight here we all commit to action for Ashling, because we owe it to her, we owe it to her beautiful family, and we owe it to you,” Mr Harris added.
President of MIC, Professor Eugene Wall, fought back tears as he welcomed Ms Murphy’s parents, Kathleen and Raymond, sister Amy, brother Cathal, and boyfriend Ryan, to the college where “almost four months ago on this day, Ashling emerged, happily clutching her degree parchment having realised her long held ambition to become a primary teacher”.
Mr Wall said the MIC graduate’s death had “sent shockwaves throughout the entire nation and abroad”.
MIC Chaplain, Fr Michael Wall, said the news had led to a national outpouring of “confusion, anxiety, sadness, anger, and upheaval” and that women in particular were suffering “with a range of fears and anxieties and worries”.
Fr Wall said while there had been “various calls for change”, he hoped for direction and wisdom “for our leaders, our politicians, our legislators, our law enforcement people, our leaders and influencers, to make decisions that will lead to a better life for all”.
I know we, as men, must do better, and will do better
The Mayor of Limerick, Fine Gael Cllr Daniel Butler, said it was up to political leaders like himself to make decisions to ensure Ashling’s loss is “not a futile one”.
Cllr Butler added: “I know we, as men, must do better, and will do better.”
Maura Murray, a classmate from Tullamore, who also studied at MIC with Ms Murphy, fought back tears paying tribute to “our dearest friend Ash”.
“All she ever wanted to do was to become a teacher, which she was born to do. Ashling loved her walks, the fresh air, being surrounded by nature, she had so many plans. We will keep (her) in our hearts and minds… Forever, fly high with the angels,” she added.