The late Ashling Murphy, RIP.

A senseless act

In this week's Good Life column, Gemma Good is shaken by the murder of a young schoolteacher in Tullamore...

It isn’t a nice feeling to be afraid to go for a walk or run safely. For such a simple thing to cost your life. Attending the vigil for Ashling Murphy in Cavan’s Market Square on Friday night was a harrowing experience. The event brought with it a sense of unity, people standing together against violence and showing their respect for Ashling, her friends and her family. Traditional music filled the square in her memory. Standing beside me was a young girl, maybe ten years of age, holding a candle. I am very grateful to not be a parent at this time, I can only imagine the conversation that led to her presence at the event.

“Here’s your candle, now go on out to the car.”

“But mam, why did Ashling die?”

“There’s no reason sweetheart, sometimes bad things happen to good people.”

How can you explain what happened? When nobody rightly knows why an innocent person would be murdered. Glowing candle light illuminated several young faces filled with fear and confusion as I scanned the crowd. Averting my eyes upwards, anger and sadness dominated as alarming statistics were read aloud.

Like many, I have been in shock since I saw the headline on Thursday morning. I couldn’t believe that a woman was killed out jogging in broad daylight. It just really hit home that this could happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

I’m sure people have countless stories of times when they did not feel safe while out exercising alone. I have had a few incidents when I felt scared out running. Times when I literally thought I would never make it back to the house.

When I am going for a walk at home, I must bring the dog with me. The rule has always been about, it’s only when I got older that I realised why. My parents say they feel safer when my black Labrador is with me, he is very protective.

A few summers back, I took a notion of running and I didn’t like to bring the dog. The poor clown would be panting with the heat and I just didn’t think it was fair to bring him along. My parents objected, but I didn’t see any harm in jogging on quiet country roads in daylight. I mostly went during the morning time on the same route so I could keep an accurate record of my time.

I started to notice that, every day I was out, I would always meet a car that would pass very slowly. I thought nothing of it at first because it was early in the day, just a cautious driver heading off to work. I changed the time I ran and the route but I continued to meet the car, always driving slowly.

One day I jogged with my airpods out. I heard a car behind me while I was on a straight stretch of road. Now I’m not that determined when it comes to running. if I meet a car on a bend, I will stop and pull myself in. This car had loads of room to get past me and there were no other cars coming but it stayed behind me. I slowed to a walk and the car still crawled behind me. I was freaking out at this stage. I stopped on the road and they still didn’t pass me. I literally had to jump up into the ditch for the car to overtake. It was that car. To this day I don’t know if the person was intentionally following me, sitting on the phone or just a very cautious driver but it was enough to scare the crap out of me. I stopped running in these areas, sticking to football fields, forest parks or the gym. I hate these solutions, it’s not fair but what else can you do?

SOS phones

In Limerick, I have to say I do feel a lot safer when I am out walking or jogging. There are always plenty of students about and the areas are very well lit. There are SOS phones located all around UL’s campus grounds with 24-hour security just a phone call away. Thankfully I have never had to make use of this facility, but I think SOS phones would be well worth the investment in walking hotspots all over the country.

I want to make it clear that I am not in favour of bringing gender into this issue. I fully understand that women are more commonly subject to gender-based violence; however men experience this too. I don’t think dividing the genders is helpful in this situation at all. In fact I think it could be contributing to the issue, maybe giving men a feeling of superiority over women.

Also, imagine being a male experiencing abuse at the hands of a woman. Imagine how you would feel coming forward in a society where the role is promoted to be reversed? Yes, educate your sons, but educate your daughters too. Teach everyone to have respect and look out for each other. If we achieve this, we could live in a society that is a lot safer for everyone.

The amount of times I have hit the delete button writing this piece is unbelievable. As a young woman, I wanted to say something about what happened to Ashling Murphy but, like many, I don’t know what to say. The nation is filled with shock, sadness, sympathy and fear at the senseless murder of a beautiful young woman. Many questions surround her death; How could anybody murder an innocent person? How can such violence be avoided in the future? What is the penalty for such a crime? Are we safe in our communities? Answers vary, but too many lives have been lost. This can’t keep happening.

* Gemma Good is from Killeshandra and a second year journalism student in University of Limerick.


A Covid positive start to the new year!