‘She Was Just Going for a Run’: Anger in Ireland Over Teacher’s Murder
DUBLIN — The murder in broad daylight of a 23-year-old schoolteacher who had been jogging on a well-frequented path along a canal last week has set off a storm of anger and shock across Ireland over women’s safety.
Ashling Murphy, a newly qualified first-grade teacher, was attacked and strangled on Jan. 12 as she was running along the Grand Canal near Tullamore in County Offaly, west of Dublin. The attack took place at around 4 p.m. on a stretch popular with walkers, runners and cyclists.
The police on Wednesday charged a 31-year-old Slovakian man, Jozef Puska, with murder. Mr. Puska, who the police said lived in County Offaly, was taken to the district court in Tullamore, where he denied the charges. He was remanded in custody to appear in court again next week.
The arrest followed days of mounting public outrage about the killing of Ms. Murphy, with vigils held for her across Ireland, and by Irish communities and women’s groups abroad.
“The killing of Ashling Murphy in broad daylight, while out jogging, highlighted to us all that there is no behavior that women can change to make us safer, and that it is men’s behavior and ultimately our culture that must transform,” said Orla O’Connor, director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland.
Impromptu tributes of flowers, candles and flickering lights appeared in many parks and along paths popular with runners. The phrase, “She was just going for a run,” spread across social media and was picked up in public tributes to Ms. Murphy.
The president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, and Prime Minister Michael Martin attended Ms. Murphy’s funeral, which was broadcast on national television on Tuesday from her home village, Mountbolus.
As the crowd overflowed from the church where the funeral was held, students from her first-grade class stood in the cold, holding red roses and photographs of Ms. Murphy, who was also known as an accomplished fiddle player. A spontaneous gathering of traditional folk musicians provided a musical tribute.
The National Women’s Council of Ireland said that 244 women had died violently in Ireland since 1996, including seven last year.
But Prof. Mary McAuliffe, director of gender studies at University College Dublin who researches violence against women, said that the murder of Ms. Murphy had aroused particular shock and outrage given the location and nature of the attack.
“It’s not about being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said. “As a woman you are just coming home from work, going out, living your life, and every moment can be your last.”
The murders last year of two young women, Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, fueled similar outrage and anger in Britain, and calls to improve safety for women.
Irish feminism has made great strides in the past 50 years, Professor McAuliffe said, in areas such as the workplace, reproductive rights and access to divorce. But despite changing social attitudes, a misogynic culture of harassment, rape and violence endures in Ireland, she said.
“There is legislation against hate crimes like racism, homophobia, transgender discrimination and sectarianism, but misogyny is a gray area,” Professor McAuliffe said. “There’s a continuum with street harassment at one end, and rape and lethal violence at the other end.”
The Irish minister for justice, Helen McEntee, said in Parliament this week that she would press for new laws to outlaw gender-based hatred and for an increase in funding for women’s shelters and other measures to protect women against violent abuse. She said that efforts should also be made to educate men and boys to understand and change their behavior.
“To prevent violence and abuse against women, we must eradicate the social and cultural attitudes which make women feel unsafe,” Ms. McEntee said.
“We can only do so by changing our culture to ensure we are not all bystanders,” she said. “That we don’t just look the other way but call out inappropriate behavior when we see it, everywhere we see it. The workplace, the dressing room, the pub, the golf club and the WhatsApp group.”