First class pupils from Durrow national school clutch pictures of their teacher, Ashling Murphy, on her Graduation day and single red roses as they form a Guard of Honour outside the Church of St. Brigid during her funeral Mass today.

Ashling will "always be my soulmate" says distraught boyfriend

In a heartbreaking graveside tribute to his girlfriend of five years at her funeral Mass today, Ryan Casey described Ashling Murphy as "the love of my life" and told mourners she would always be his soulmate.

"She was, is, and always will be my soulmate" said a distraught Mr. Casey, who added that she was "a shining light" to everyone who knew her. "She was always willing to help everybody and that meant that she often put herself last," he said.

Amid scenes of indescribable grief and anguish, the young Tullamore schoolteacher, who was attacked and murdered on the banks of the Grand Canal on Wednesday afternoon last while she was out jogging, was laid to rest this afternoon in Lowertown cemetery in her home parish of Mountbolus.

One of the most poignant images from the Funeral Mass was the sight of Ashling Murphy's first class pupils from Durrow national school clutching pictures of their beloved teacher on her graduation day as they formed a guard of honour outside the Church of St. Brigid as the funeral cortage made its way from her family home in nearby Blueball.

Many of Ashling's cousins from the Murphy and Leonard families participated in the Mass, and read Prayers of the Faithful, during which prayers were said for for the emergency services, and for the young teacher’s “friends, colleagues and students in Ballyboy Comhaltas, Kilcormac, Killoughey Camogie club and Scoil Naomh Colmcille, Durrow."

Prayers were also said that the many vigils which have been held in her memory “mark the beginning of an end to violence against women” and that the candlelight tributes “bring an everlasting hope to all those who live in fear.”

In a special address to mourners after Communion, the Bishop of Meath,Tom Deenihan made a heartfelt plea for people to “respect each other.”

Describing the last few days as “a nightmare” Bishop Deenihan said “no individual should die like Ashling and no family should suffer like Ashling’s. “

He said “respect is an old-fashioned word, but it is an important word” and he added that “respect was missing last Wednesday but it has re-emerged here all the stronger. Let us respect each other.”

He said the horrific murder of the young teacher which he described as "a depraved act of violence" had “asked questions of ourselves and of society” particularly in relation to our attitudes to women, our values and our morality.”

“Whether those questions will be addressed or passed over remains to be seen but we cannot allow such violence and disregard for both human life and bodily integrity to take root in our time and culture,” he said.

Chief celebrant at the Funeral Mass, and Parish Priest of Kilcomac and Killoughey, Mount Bolus, Fr. Michael Meade, said the Murphy family and Ashling’s boyfriend, Ryan, had been robbed of their “most precious gift, - a gift that gave only joy and love, fun and laughter” to both her family and to the many groups and organisations she was involved in.

“Today we grieve, we pray, we hurt – this is the heavy price we pay for love,” said Fr. Meade, who also prayed that “the issues raised in many ways and by many voices” since the horrific murder of Ashling Murphy will “continue to evolve and bring the change we need so much, to simply give and show respect” he said.

Among the dignitaries in attendance at the funeral today were President Michael D. Higgins and his wife, Sabina, An Taoiseach Michéal Martin; Minister for Education, Norma Foley, Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee and Minister for Arts and Culture, Catherine Martin.

Symbols brought to the altar to signify her “rich and full life” included a fiddle, a family photograph, a jersey from Kilcomac Killoughey, a school book and a hurley to signify her love of camogie.