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Vigils take place across Ireland in memory of murdered teacher Ashling Murphy

A vigil took place at Belfast City Hall last night in memory of Ashling Murphy. Picture by Hugh Russell
Dominic McGrath, Cate McCurry, James Ward and Jonathan McCambridge

VIGILS took place in towns and cities across Ireland last night to remember murdered primary school teacher Ashling Murphy.

Thousands of people gathered in the late afternoon in Tullamore, Dublin, Belfast, Derry and Omagh as well as in many other towns to pay tribute to the 23-year-old.

Gardaí are continuing to hunt for the killer of the talented musician, who was found dead on Wednesday after going for a run on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly.

Last night officers said they had made "significant progress" in their investigation but were not releasing details for operational reasons.

Gardai also said the Murphy family were "appreciative and overwhelmed by the national outpouring of support shown to them".

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was among those who stood in silence outside the Dáil in Dublin while Stormont Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill joined the crowd at City Hall in Belfast.

More vigils and memorial events will be held in the days to come.

In Tullamore, shops, businesses and cafes closed early, as the midlands town came largely to a halt as thousands attended the vigil in a local park.

There were many tears as people of all ages came to mourn and pay their respects to the teacher.

Floral tributes were also left outside the gates of Durrow National School, where Ms Murphy taught. In a statement posted on Twitter, the school said it was "utterly devastated by the passing of our dear colleague and friend".

Ashling Murphy was killed on Wednesday while out running in Tullamore, Co Offaly.

Friends of Ms Murphy were among the traditional Irish musicians who played at the vigil.

Priest Fr Joe Gallagher addressed the crowd before calling for a minute's silence.

"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," said Fr Gallagher.

"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."

Attracta Brady, who was Ms Murphy's first fiddle teacher, played alongside other musicians at the vigil in Tullamore.

"She was the most beautiful girl inside and out," she said.

Earlier, Taoiseach Mr Martin said that the murder had "united the nation in solidarity and revulsion".

"No stone will be left unturned in terms of bringing this investigation to a completion and to bring the person responsible for this to justice," he said.

Politicians have promised that all resources necessary will be provided to the gardaí to find the killer.

The death of Ms Murphy has sparked fresh debate about the safety of women in Ireland, with many asking how such an attack could happen in broad daylight.

"We, as a society, need to face up to this. There is an epidemic of violence against women. It's been going on for millennia, quite frankly," Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said yesterday.

"Men and boys I think, in particular, have a responsibility to start to have that conversation among ourselves about the kind of factors, the kind of attitudes, that give rise to feelings that engender men to commit acts of violence against women."

Vigils were held across Ireland including at Belfast City Hall. Picture by Hugh Russell

Gardaí continue to appeal for witnesses and ask anyone with information about a bicycle - a Falcon Storm mountain bike with straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front forks - to come forward.

In a statement last night the service said: "Significant progress has been made in the investigation to date.

"An Garda Siochana is not confirming any specific details for operational reasons.

"An Garda Siochana continue to support Ashling's family at this time. The Murphy family are appreciative and overwhelmed by the national outpouring of support shown to them.

"The Murphy family have requested that they now need privacy, space and time to process Ashling's death."

On Thursday, officers released a man they had been questioning, saying he was "no longer a suspect".

The man's solicitor told the PA news agency that he has had his "life ruined".

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