A brutal and barbaric murder that shocked and angered a nation to its core

The brutal, senseless and barbaric murder of 23-year-old Ashling Murphy in a public place in broad daylight has shocked and angered a nation to its very core.

  So gruesome is this nightmare, I’d bet that if any of the men reading this were to sit quietly and listen carefully to the ladies in their lives, they may be able to pick up the barely audible murmur of fear we feel deep down inside of us. This fear is so visceral, so instinctive and so common, that every time women like me, (who’re not easily scared), go walking alone, we actually consider the possibility of being terrorised, attacked, raped, or even murdered, as being a fact of our daily lives.

  Regular readers may remember that I’ve previously written about my horrific experience of being attacked and raped some years ago. I’m still carrying both the physical and emotional scars of this brutal assault, and as a mother and a grandmother, the thing that scares me most in life is the chilling, blood-curdling thought that something similar could happen to either of my two daughters or my two granddaughters.

  Therefore, last Friday, rather than joining a vigil for Ashling in Roscommon, I drove to Dublin at 6 am to spend the day with my girls. We had lunch in Malahide, we chatted, we bought flowers and candles, and then at 4 pm, arms linked, we joined my former neighbours and my old teen-hood pals in a vigil to remember a beautiful young life stolen by a barbaric act of gender-based depravity. It was not lost on us that Ashling’s brutal murder occurred along Fiona’s Way, a path named in memory of a seven-months’ pregnant Fiona Pender, another local young woman, who disappeared without a trace in 1996.

  This week, while our thoughts turn to Ashling’s heartbroken family and what must be their immeasurable grief, they also turn to the thousands of women distressed by this latest murder – the ones now considering altering their daily routines, terrified it could so easily have been them.

  On the morning following Ashling’s ruthless death, he-who-hates-any-form-of-exercise asked if I’d like for him to accompany me on my walk that day. My answer was “Thanks, but no thanks”.

  You see ladies, grateful though I am for hubby’s offer, I feel there’s little use in him ‘escorting’ me on one of my walks. I mean, what happens on the days he doesn’t come with me? What do I do then? Sit home Miss Havisham-style, never venturing outdoors again?

  Yes I am fearful, and yes I hate myself for allowing these emotions to change my behaviours to the extent that while I’m out walking, I’m now constantly looking over my shoulder, scanning my surroundings like an army reconnaissance scout. But will I stop walking? No! Why? Because I feel angry.

  Like all women, I should feel able to walk confidently and unhindered, and I refuse to allow fear to get in the way of that. Therefore, rather than seeing my anxiety as a weakness, instead I’ll see it as an emotion that’s preparing my gut instinct for what could possibly happen to me when I’m out alone. I’ll console myself with the knowledge that what I’m experiencing every time I set out is simply an appropriate response to the epidemic of gender-based violence perpetrated against us. Therefore, should someone think they can make me a victim (again), this panic programmed into my psyche will give me the strength I need to be a survivor.

  Let me stress that it’s ‘not all men’ – indeed it must be dreadful to be deemed a threat simply by virtue of your gender. I can tell you lads, it’s equally dreadful to be frightened for your very life, again, by virtue of your gender.

  However, even though conversations are being had, revulsion is being expressed, and promises are being made by our Government to eliminate attacks on us, it’s my concern that this is merely lip service. The sadistic and the predictable behaviours of some men towards women will never be addressed, nor will they ever change.

  The Gardaí are doing a great job and I’m sure the perpetrator of this heinous crime will be made take sole responsibility for their actions, and will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. However, afterwards, as society moves on, it’s likely that women’s safety may never be prioritised, nor will anything concrete be done to protect us.

  To put it simply ladies, you and me will continue to be forced to deal with and live with the horrific, pervasive, and unquenchable perception that in the eyes of some men (not all), we are, and always will be, nothing more than mere prey. May Ashling’s gentle soul rest in peace.

Is the end of Covid finally in sight?

While I’ve no doubt that restrictions around Covid-19 are being continuously assessed, encouraging signs such as a decline in daily cases could mean we may have reached the peak of this invasive Omicron variant. Woo hoo! I feel like Mel Gibson in Braveheart – only I’m not shouting ‘freedom’, I’m shouting ‘saoirse’!

  However, as someone who’s a born worrier and germaphobe, I think I’ll still continue to wear a mask and carry hand sanitiser long after this pandemic has been declared over.

  Mind you readers, I was delighted to have received a text from the HSE this week to inform me my ‘booster cert’ was now ready to download. I’ll do this over the weekend. Himself and myself received our boosters in early December from our doctor (and so grateful to have been offered it), however as our email addresses weren’t documented, we had to wait on our details to be uploaded to the HSE’s system.

  My reason for mentioning this is due to so many of you stopping me to say you hadn’t yet received your own certs, and you were worried in case they didn’t arrive etc. I have nothing to do with the HSE – in fact, trying to get through to their helpline to get some info for you nearly drove me to the brink of distraction.

  However, if you’ve got access to a computer and the internet, log onto gov.ie, click on ‘how to get your EU Digital Covid certificate’ and follow the instructions. If you don’t have an email address, no problem. Just tick the box that asks if you wish for a hard copy (paper version) of your cert to be posted to you. I’ve done this for my parents and it took me a matter of minutes.

Listen to our young people, Norma!

It’s very seldom I’ll agree with a TD, however I have to say that Independent Roscommon/Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice makes a lot of sense when he says students should be allowed to avail of the hybrid exam system that was in place last year.

  I don’t have anyone sitting their Leaving Cert this year, but having put two daughters through school/college, I do know that one of the most stressful times in a family’s life is the run-up to the Leaving Cert. I do have a granddaughter sitting her Junior Cert, and I’d like to think that if she was in sixth year facing her Leaving Cert, and she was one of the 68 percent who voted to sit a hybrid State exam model, that her voice, along with her peers, would be heard!

  Having their voices heard is key to our young people’s social cohesion. As Minister for Education, you should know this, Norma Foley!