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Editorial: She was just going for a run

'SHE was just going for a run'. The tagline accompanying countless social media posts captures the sense of horror at the brutal killing of Ashling Murphy in Co Offaly.

It also encapsulates the sense of anger that women cannot engage in basic activities that most men take for granted without fear of being attacked.

Vigils today will remember the 23-year-old who was targeted in Tullamore and demand that authorities take violence against women more seriously.

A talented musician and dedicated teacher, Ashling had just finished work and was jogging along the banks of the Grand Canal when she was attacked at around 4pm on Wednesday.

It was a route she ran regularly, and for such an appalling crime to happen in broad daylight at a location used by many people to run, cycle or walk with children or dogs is particularly chilling.

Gardaí have said they believe the attack was carried out by a single male, with no indication that the victim knew her killer. Detectives should now be given every assistance to ensure the perpetrator is put behind bars.

However, the killing also raises wider questions about levels of violence against women in Irish society.

It is a shocking reality that women will feel forced to take a range of precautions while out walking or running alone: letting someone know when they leave and safely return, alternating routes, crossing roads to avoid strangers, even holding keys in their hands.

The murder of Sarah Everard in London last year sparked protests across Britain and Ireland amid demands for systemic change.

More than 230 women have died violently at the hands of men in the Republic since 1996, according to Women's Aid, while one in four have been abused by a current or former partner.

Northern Ireland has been shown to have one of the highest rates of femicide in western Europe.

Stormont has moved to address gaps in the law around domestic abuse and stalking and dedicated strategies are being prepared north and south. Education will be key to changing societal attitudes.

The route where Ashling Murphy was running is called Fiona's Way, in memory of 25-year-old Fiona Pender who was seven months pregnant when she went missing in 1996.

Action is now needed on both sides of the border to ensure Ashling's legacy will be that women never need to feel afraid when simply going out alone.

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