A section of the large crowd at the vigil in Tullamore town park. Pic: Ger Rogers
Thousands of people packed into Tullamore town park on Friday evening for a sombre vigil of music, poetry and prayer in memory of murdered school teacher Ashling Murphy.
The outpouring of grief dramatically demonstrated how the entire community and country has been affected by the death of Ashling in a violent attack on the banks of the Grand Canal.
Such was the size of the crowd that the vigil, scheduled for 4pm, did not commence until 4.20pm. Proceedings were relayed to the vast crowd, scattered over the park in line with Covid restrictions, by a large screen.
Fittingly music dominated with Ashling's friends playing a host of her traditional favourites including “Tabhair dom do lámh” and a special composition in memory of Ashling by Attracta Brady entitled “Don Chroí Naofa”.
Clergy from all the Christian churches in Tullamore were also in attendance to lead the huge crowd in prayer for Ashling's family and friends and the entire community.
Fr Joe Gallagher, parish priest of Tullamore, said people stood in solidarity with each other to share their feelings and to support Ashling's family.
He said that all over the country communities were united with women who fear and know the trauma of violence.
"We remember her heartbroken family, her colleagues in work, in music, in sport, in friendship and her young pupils in first class who loved their teacher.
"This is a time of grief beyond words. We need to be together. We need to support one another in this dark time.
"We stand together, united with groups all over our country, and indeed beyond, united with women who fear and know the trauma of violence. United in grief, in anger, in shock.
"In this dark evening we want to hold a light in our hands, to stand together in solidarity with one another to share our tears and deep grief. Time to pray, to reflect, to listen, to be together."
Poems specially composed for the vigil were recited by Sinead Cullen and Alan Murphy who said he understood what Ashling's family were going through due to his own experience of the death of his young son Jordan in a road accident.
Master of Ceremonies, Ronan Berry said the attendance “was here as a community to grieve and to come together to try and make sense of what has occurred in our town and country.”
“We hope that this event brings some peace and solace to you all,” he stressed.
Prayers of the faithful, the Our Father, St Francis' prayer for peace and a psalm from the Bible were also recited by representatives of the churches before the formalities concluded with a musical procession.
Many of those in the crowd held lighted candles which were brought to the stage at the end of proceedings while more candles were placed at different areas throughout the park.
Many stayed on after the vigil had concluded to reflect on the events of the past couple of days which have changed Irish society forever.
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