The partner of tragic teacher Ashling Murphy has described her as a “shining light” who was always willing to help others and put herself last.
Ryan Casey paid tribute to his girlfriend, saying she was an “incredibly loving and beautiful” person.
The body of the 23-year-old was found on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly, sparking a murder investigation.
Hundreds of people gathered for the funeral of the talented musician and teacher in the village of Mountbolus, and outside St Brigid’s Church on Tuesday.
“It is simply not possible to explain what Ashling meant to myself, her family, friends,” Mr Casey said.
“All I’d like to say in this moment and time is that Ashling was our shining light. She loves her mum Kathleen, her father Ray, her big sister Amy and big brother Cathal and all of her family and friends so much.
“She was always there, always willing to help anybody, anywhere, at any time, and always put herself last.
“She had so many talents which combined made her an incredibly loving and beautiful person. We were all so lucky to know and love and spend as much time with her as possible.
“She is the greatest love of my life. I will cherish the last five years we spent together for my entire life. I hope that some day, God willing, we can be reunited once more and continue the great plans we had made for each other.
“Goodbye for now, but not forever, darling. Ashling shall live on in all of our hearts.”
Hours after Mr Casey’s tribute, Irish police investigating her death confirmed that a man has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
The man, aged in his 30s, is being questioned at Tullamore garda station.
Irish president Michael D Higgins and Irish premier Micheal Martin were among those in attendance at the funeral.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin also attended.
Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina hugged the family of Ms Murphy at the funeral mass.
Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan told mourners that “a depraved act of violence” which deprived Ms Murphy of her life has united the country in grief and support.
Bishop Deenihan said her death has asked questions of “ourselves and of society”, and has questioned attitudes towards women, and “our values and 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 take root in our time and culture,” he added.
“The past few days have been a nightmare. A walk on a mild and sunny afternoon in January should be a happy event, promising the brighter and warmer days of spring and summer.
“We all know that no individual should die like Ashling and no family should suffer like Ashling’s.
“Respect is an old-fashioned word but it is an important one. Respect was missing last Wednesday but it has re-emerged here all the stronger.
“Let us respect each other.”
He added that a light during last week’s darkness was the outpouring of support and sympathy.
Parish priest Michael Meade told mourners that Ashling’s family has been “robbed of your most precious gift”.
“A gift that gave only joy and love, fun and laughter to many, many beyond yourselves and bounds of your own home,” Fr Meade added.
“Let us not be afraid to make change a reality in all our lives, change for what only is good.
“Together we grieve, we pray, we hurt – this is the heavy price we pay for love – we gather as a family of faith, to be with, to support by our prayer and our presence, those whose darkness is deep, whose pain is raw and fierce.
“The issues raised in many ways and by many voices since this horrible act of violence invaded all our lives will, we pray, continue to evolve and bring the change we need so much.
“Not to talk about it but to simply give and show respect.”
He said that Ms Murphy’s love was “freely given and shared” through music, sport and her vocation as a teacher.
“Today we share our love, our grief, our faith and our comfort with the Murphy and Leonard families.”
Children outside the church held photographs of Ms Murphy and roses. The message next to Ms Murphy’s image read: “Fly high in the sky, Our shining light.”
Representatives from Ms Murphy’s local Gaelic football club as well as from her old school attended the parish church of St Brigid.
Schoolchildren provided a guard of honour outside the church prior to the funeral. A number of children also held fiddles and tin whistles.
A family friend also spoke on behalf of Ms Murphy’s family following the funeral.
“Ashling was born into a tight-knit family, where love was freely given and in turn Ashling learned to express freely that love,” he told mourners.
“Her parents, Ray and Kathleen, watched with pride their youngest grow into the beautiful, confident and vibrant young woman who lived and loved life to the full.
“As often happens in rural communities, her tutors and mentors she had as a child became her colleagues at Durrow National School where she began teaching first class.
“Teaching came naturally to Ashling as she had been teaching both tin whistle and fiddle.
“Her family home was filled with traditional music every weekend as children learned to love what Ashling loved.
“Ashling, at 23 years, was within her large family the baby to her older cousins, but yet a role model to her younger cousins.
“She loved socialising. She never confined herself to any particular norm, but was a friend to all who had the pleasure of knowing her.
“Her partner of five years Ryan was the love of her life and they had a clear vision of their future.
“She was everything you could hope for in a young woman and she will never be out of our hearts.
“We will cherish her memory and keep alive her legacy and achievements in her short life.”
Vigils have been held across Ireland and the world to remember Ms Murphy and to call for a change in tackling gender-based violence.
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