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‘We grieve, we pray, we hurt – this is the heavy price we pay for love’

In the middle of the unimaginable, at a minor intersection in a rural Irish village, bewildering reality and a crushing sadness merged in memory of a shining spirit cruelly cut short.

Mourners gathered from early at this little junction where Idle Corner Road runs down to the main street, ending at the gates of St Brigid’s Church in Mountbolus. They waited quietly in the January cold and intermittent morning rain, still coming to terms with the awful circumstances which brought them to this crossroads in Co Offaly.

How could this be happening?

Less than a week ago, Ashling Murphy was their talented young neighbour from Culla in Blue Ball who played camogie with the local club and taught music to the local kids and could turn out a fine traditional tune on the fiddle. She was teaching the first class in Durrow National School, having graduated from teacher training college a few months ago.

Everyone knew Ashling.

And then the evil strikes. She is violently murdered and killed by a lone stranger when out for a run in the afternoon sunshine along the well-trodden banks of the local canal.

A young life needlessly ended. The world changed forever for those left behind.

Once upon a week ago Ashling Murphy is going about her daily routine like any other active young woman.

Six days later she is gone, taken from her family in the most unspeakable of circumstances.

Six days later her shell-shocked family are attending her funeral, accepting the personal condolences of the President and the Taoiseach in their village church. Seven priests and a bishop officiate at the Mass. The service is televised live. An area outside is cordoned off for members of the media – local, national and international.

Six days later and the astonishing outpouring of national grief and anger continues. Ashling’s name is known the length and breadth of the country. Vigils held in her memory; makeshift shrines springing up in all sorts of places; prayers and poems offered; tears shed.

Six devastating days later, on the morning of Ashling’s funeral, the local community gathers to remember her and stand in solidarity with her parents, Raymond and Kathleen, sister Amy, brother Cathal and boyfriend Ryan Casey.

“Together we grieve, we pray, we hurt – this is the heavy price we pay for love,” said parish priest, Fr Michael Meade, during his homily.

Ashling Murphy’s brother Cathal, mother Kathleen, sister Amy, father Raymond and boyfriend Ryan, following her funeral Mass at St Brigid’s Church, Mountbolus, Co Offaly. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Ashling Murphy’s brother Cathal, mother Kathleen, sister Amy, father Raymond and boyfriend Ryan, following her funeral Mass at St Brigid’s Church, Mountbolus, Co Offaly. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Ashling was baptised in St Brigid’s.


Around the church, farmers have opened fields for use as car parks. Local men wearing high-vis jackets direct the traffic. Others act as stewards on the approach roads and in the church grounds. Others man the doors to the community hall, where the Mass will be shown on a big screen.

Inside and outside there are trestle tables with catering flasks of tea and coffee and trays of homemade cakes and sandwiches.

People want to help, help in any way they can. At least it’s something they can do.

The VIPs are among the first to arrive at the church. Ministers Helen McEntee, Catherine Martin and Norma Foley along with Ministers of State Pippa Hackett and Seán Fleming.

And then Taoiseach Micheál Martin, followed by President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina.

But outside the gates, the children have been in place for almost an hour. The seven year olds from the two local primary schools, including Ashling’s class, wait in a line at the entrance, the saddest most innocent little guard of honour you ever saw.

The boys and girls are so well behaved, taking everything in with wide-eyed wonder. They each hold a single red rose and a copy of Ashling’s beautiful graduation photograph. A few of them quietly play Rock, Paper, Scissors. One little boy asks if Joe Biden is coming when he hears talk of the president.

Their teachers stand behind them, trying hard not to get upset.

The Kilcormac and Killoughey GAA club form a guard of honour at the bottom of Idle Corner Road, which runs past the Lowertown cemetery and down to the junction with St Brigid’s. The older men wear yellow and green sashes and the tearful members of Ashling’s camogie team wear green and yellow tracksuits. Girls from the Sacred Heart Secondary School in Tullamore form another guard of honour.

Around the corner to the side of the community centre, Joe Freeley has come from Mayo with five white doves. He will release them towards the end of the Mass.

Glass lanterns lit with flickering candles are placed outside the front gates of many houses on the main road into the village. The strains of traditional Irish music fill the air as more and more musicians arrive with their instruments. Then the music gives way to the sound of engines as the funeral cortege appears on the cemetery road, a Garda motorcycle escort leading the way, blue lights flashing.

The children stop fidgeting at the sight, standing up straight. When the hearse passes they hold up their roses. There is a message on the photographs: “Fly High in the Sky. Our Shining Light.”

The principal mourners line up behind the coffin. Heartbroken and clinging to each other for support, they follow it inside. President Higgins approaches the Murphy family before taking his seat, touching the coffin as he passes it. There are hugs and tears from his wife Sabina.

The Taoiseach also offers his condolences to the grieving parents. He looks distraught as he talks to Ashling’s father.

Symbols reflecting her life are brought to the altar. They include a family photograph, a school book and a camogie stick.

In a lovely touch, as decided by the family, a young woman from Ashling’s family and friends provide the music, readings and prayers of the faithful.

“You have been robbed of your most precious gift – a gift that gave only joy and love, fun and laughter to many,” Fr Meade told the family.

Bishop Tom Deenihan spoke of “a depraved act of violence which deprived a kind, talented, loved and admired young woman of her life which has since united the country in grief and support”.


Mourners outside struggled to catch his words on the failing public address system. “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.”

There is, however, “a chink of light”, he said. It was carried by the vigils and the outpouring of support and sympathy and the local effort in recent days.

“Community is needed to overcome evils such as this.”

As the Mass drew to a close, one group of musicians set up on the road outside the gate. More made their way up to the cemetery. There were fiddles and button accordions, banjos, concertinas and guitars and Uileann pipes. The guard of honour reformed.

Ashling Murphy who was killed while out for a jog in Tullamore.
Ashling Murphy who was killed while out for a jog in Tullamore.

The funeral bell tolled as the family lined up behind the hearse in the churchyard, traditional music drifting on the air.

The President and his wife came to say farewell, both exchanging emotional embraces with the distraught parents, siblings and boyfriend.

Michael D and Sabina were there on behalf of the nation, conveying the feelings of the people.

Both crying as officials guided them back to their car, through the middle of the unimaginable, at a minor intersection in a rural Irish village.

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Our council tried to force us to sell our £200,000 home to make room for asylum seekers: Elderly couple’s horror after strongly-worded letter lands on their doorstep

An elderly couple who had just moved into their £200,000 house were horrified to receive a letter from their council suggesting the property could be subject to compulsory purchase and used to house asylum seekers.

Jose and Ted Saunders said they were ‘insulted and shocked’ when the strongly-worded letter from North Northamptonshire Council – which has never balanced its own books – dropped on their mat last month.

It said their neat mid-terraced house in Rushden, near Wellingborough, was deemed to be an empty property, or was ‘derelict’ and the council could even force them to sell it.

‘I couldn’t believe it,’ said retired carer Jose, 76. ‘We moved to Rushden to help provide childcare for my grand-daughter and found this nice little place to live.

‘The idea of forcing us to sell it to make room for refugees and asylum seekers seems totally wrong.’

Jose and Ted Saunders, the couple who received a letter from the council suggesting their property could be subject to a compulsory purchase order and used to house asylum seekers

The letter that Jose and Ted received from North Northamptonshire Council last month

The letter, headed ‘Empty Properties and sites initiative’ had their exact address in bold and stated: ‘We are writing as we have reason to believe that the above-named premises… is empty or unused.

‘The Government has identified empty privately-owned properties as a potential cause of blight within communities, and as a wasted resource at time of high housing need.’

The letter continued that the council was seeing a ‘considerable increase’ in positive immigration decisions being made in favour of asylum seekers, mainly single men, and the authority was ‘struggling’ to source suitable accommodation for them.

It added: ‘The ideal long-term solution would be to provide accommodation by using empty properties which would benefit owners and the project.’

It said the council could make a compulsory purchase order on the property.

The couple thought the they were going to lose their home worth £200,000 (above)

The couple thought the they were going to lose their home worth £200,000 (above)

North Northamptonshire Council has never managed to balance its budget since its inception in 2021. The council has said increased pressures from demand-led services have driven up costs.

Added Jose: ‘It was all the more worrying as we’d only moved in last November, so we still hadn’t received the deeds for the house.’

Retired driving instructor Ted, 78, and his wife called the council and asked what was going on.

Three days later they received an apology, saying their staff had mistakenly ear-marked the house for possible compulsory purchase, but the Saunders were still baffled by the policy itself.

‘What on earth is the council doing forcing people to sell their houses – and even an empty house is owned by someone – so that asylum seekers can live in them?’ asked Jose.

‘The answer to this is to stop them coming in the first place, not to force people out of their homes.’

The incident was seized upon by the Reform UK Party, whose candidate in Thursday’s (Feb 15) Wellingborough by-election, Ben Habib, heard about the couple.

Mr Habib, who is also the party’s co-deputy leader, told MailOnline: ‘I was horrified to hear the plight of Mr. & Mrs. Saunders, but my horror could not compare to what they experienced last month.

‘They were served with a letter from North Northamptonshire District Council seeking to possess their home. The accusation made was their home was derelict and the Council intended to use it to house single young men seeking asylum. Known to the rest of us as illegal migrants.

‘ I can confirm their home is most certainly not derelict. It was well appointed and cared for. They were distraught by the threat made by the Council. They feared not having title deeds and being incapable of defending their position. It was not until they visited the Council and after much pleading they managed to get the Council to desist.

The Saunders had just moved in to their new home when they received a letter from the council suggesting that could be the subject of a compulsory purchase order by the council

The Saunders had just moved in to their new home when they received a letter from the council suggesting that could be the subject of a compulsory purchase order by the council

A spokesman North Northamptonshire Council apologised to the couple for suggesting that their home could be sold top house asylum seekers - and said it had been sent in error

A spokesman North Northamptonshire Council apologised to the couple for suggesting that their home could be sold top house asylum seekers – and said it had been sent in error  

‘It is utterly shocking that the Council would fire off a letter like that to two elderly people. And do so with the aim of buying a £200,000 house for asylum seekers. This from a Council that is as good as bust and has never filed consolidated accounts since it was established in 2021.

‘The local charity for homeless people, the Daylight Centre, spends £650 per head per homeless person per year. Think what that charity could do with £200,000! It would be able to provide care for over 300 British citizens. There are also veterans’ charities in the constituency struggling to care of soldiers who risked life and limb for the country. Instead of the money going to them, the Council was prepared to blow it on housing maybe 4 migrants, after forcing out of their home two elderly British citizens. Disgraceful.’

The Council is run by the Tories – for all their chat about championing local issues both the Tories and Labour are asleep about the damage being wrought on Wellingborough by a failed council and a complete failure to police our territorial waters. Heads should roll and the Saunders should be compensated!

‘The only party capable of preventing the dystopia into which our country is sinking is Reform UK – the Tories and Labour have lost the plot.’

Jason Smithers, Leader of North Northamptonshire Council, told MailOnline in a statement: ‘North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) is working with owners of long-term empty properties to bring their property back into use. Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) are not utilised to “oust” current owners from their properties, they are a tool used as a very last resort to bring empty properties, which are a valuable and much need housing resource, back into use.

‘The “empty property initiative letters” were sent out in a bid to assist empty property owners to bring their property back into use, and on the whole, the support from NNC was gratefully received. Since NNC formed in 2021, no properties have been purchased by CPO. This is a mechanism of last resort to bring problematic, long term empty properties back into use.

‘Unfortunately, in this case, records held by NNC were outdated, and the letter was incorrectly sent to a property which was occupied. For this I am very sorry for causing any undue distress and worry.’

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“Dune: Part Two” Strikes A Balance Of Solemnity And Excitement, Amplifying The Saga’s Epic Journey

Dune: Part Two

‘Dune: Part Two’

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebeca Fergusson, Javier Bardem

Genre: Science fiction. USA, 2024

Runtime: 166 minutes

Release date: March 1

Frank Herbert’s original novel presents a formidable challenge for readers, not due to its literary style, but rather the intricate web of names, languages, planets, dynasties, and character relationships it entails. Denis Villeneuve’s cinematic adaptation of the first half of the book, while visually stunning, maintained the solemnity and gravity of the source material, making it a demanding viewing experience with its 155-minute runtime dominated by browns, grays, and a lack of liveliness.

Despite the complexities, Herbert’s book has garnered a dedicated following spanning multiple generations, and Villeneuve’s adaptation, surpassing previous attempts, resonated with audiences, critics, and the Academy, grossing over $400 million worldwide and earning six Oscars out of 10 nominations. Against this backdrop, “Dune: Part Two” emerges, maintaining the cinematic flavor and sumptuous tone of its predecessor.

Adult science fiction often exudes grandeur and gravitas, and “Dune: Part Two” is no exception, with its nearly three-hour runtime sustained by the visual mastery of director Denis Villeneuve, known for his work on acclaimed films like “Sicario,” “Prisoners,” and “Enemy.” The stellar cast exudes charisma, complemented by Hans Zimmer’s evocative soundtrack, which fills the theater with palpable intensity. Amidst the weighty political and religious themes, occasional moments of levity, notably from Javier Bardem’s character, offer brief respites from the film’s otherwise serious tone.

Timothée Chalamet, in 'Dune: Part Two.'
Timothée Chalamet, in ‘Dune: Part Two.’

Despite Villeneuve’s technical and artistic prowess, “Dune” falls short of creating enduring cinematic images, reminiscent of his previous works like “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049.” While some sequences lack memorable shots due to pacing issues in editing, others are hindered by digital effects, such as the overcrowded coliseum scene featuring Austin Butler’s character. However, the film still captures the essence of Herbert’s writing, with powerful quotes like “The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.”

Timothée Chalamet’s portrayal of Paul Atreides draws intriguing parallels to Jesus, particularly in his journey through the desert trials, echoing Christ’s temptation by the Devil. The depiction of the Fremen and their struggle on Arrakis evokes comparisons to oppressed peoples throughout history, resonating with contemporary conflicts like Gaza.

Despite being somewhat austere, “Dune: Part Two” remains a compelling and engaging sequel, signaling Villeneuve’s commitment to adapting Herbert’s novels for future generations. As the series progresses, exploring themes of power dynamics, it mirrors present-day geopolitical tensions in the Middle East.

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Discovering The Top Destinations In Europe For 2024

The Top Destinations To Visit In Europe 2024

The Voice Of EU | Welcome to our comprehensive guide to the most exciting European destinations to visit in 2024. Delve into a curated selection of countries, regions, cities, and neighborhoods that promise unique experiences, curated by our expert editors at Condé Nast Traveller UK and Spain.

From hidden gems to emerging hotspots, here’s where to focus your travel plans for the year ahead:

Antwerp, Belgium

Discover intriguing new architecture and a collection of chic hotel openings in Antwerp. Experience the vibrant culinary scene with a visit to renowned Michelin-starred restaurants like The Jane, while enjoying rustic dishes at the sleek new bar, Untitled. Afterward, unwind at August or Hotel Julien for a serene retreat in the heart of the city.

Asturias, Spain

Immerse yourself in eco-focused luxury tourism amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Asturias. Explore UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and rejuvenated routes like the Camino Primitivo, followed by a stay at unique properties such as Solo Palacio and PuebloAstur Eco-Resort. Indulge in the region’s “landscape cuisine” and emerging culinary movement while experiencing cultural events in Oviedo, the gastronomic capital.

Biarritz, France

Experience the revival of the surf town of Biarritz, nestled in the French Basque Country. Stay at artfully restored Belle Époque hotels like Regina Biarritz and Hôtel du Palais, and savor the vibrant Basque culinary scene. Explore sun-soaked beaches, chic boutiques, and cultural hotspots, making Biarritz a must-visit destination for sophisticated travelers.

Bodø, Norway

Embark on a journey of stargazing and natural wonders in Bodø, Norway. As the European Capital of Culture for 2024, Bodø offers a diverse arts program and spectacular landscapes, including the ethereal Lofoten Islands. Stay at luxurious accommodations like The Wood Hotel or embrace nature with GlampNord, all while experiencing the region’s burgeoning food scene.

Budapest, Hungary

Celebrate the 150th anniversary of Budapest with a blend of old-world charm and modern innovation. Explore the city’s architectural wonders, vibrant nightlife, and historic attractions like the Chain Bridge. Stay at iconic properties such as W Budapest and Dorothea Hotel, and experience the city’s cultural renaissance with musical events and new builds like the House of Music Hungary.

Carlsberg City District, Denmark

Immerse yourself in creative newness at the Carlsberg City District in Copenhagen. Explore a vibrant hub of restaurants, shops, and design houses amid repurposed brewery buildings. Indulge in culinary delights at establishments like Coffee Collective and Aamanns, while experiencing the district’s cultural revival with interactive attractions and summer parties.

Costa de Prata, Portugal

Escape to the bohemian charm of Costa de Prata, Portugal’s Silver Coast. Experience the quiet coastal beauty of Ericeira and Nazaré, with new luxury hotels like Aethos and Ohai Nazaré. Explore historic towns like Obidos and Aveiro, indulging in local delicacies and cultural experiences, making Costa de Prata a hidden gem for discerning travelers.

Cyclades, Greece

Embark on a salty-air island-hopping adventure in the Cyclades, Greece’s dazzling blue archipelago. With new flights and smart stays like Santo Pure and Kalesma Mykonos, explore iconic destinations like Mykonos, Santorini, and Paros with unparalleled luxury. Experience the region’s vibrant atmosphere, thrilling beach clubs, and world-class hospitality, creating unforgettable memories in the Greek islands.


Discover pristine countryside and adventurous trails in Kosovo, Europe’s newest country. Explore hiking and biking routes like the Trans Dinarica cycling route, and experience the region’s unique Sámi heritage and outdoor activities. Stay at charming accommodations like Ujëvara e Drinit Resort and Ariu, indulging in traditional Kosovar cuisine and warm hospitality.

Mallorca, Spain

Experience the unrivaled luxury of Mallorca with an array of exciting new hotels across the island. Stay at exclusive properties like Son Bunyola and Ikos Porto Petro, indulging in low-key luxury and exceptional service.

READ: The True Cost Of Living In Madrid, Spain: A Comprehensive Guide & Neighborhoods

Explore the island’s natural beauty, cultural attractions, and culinary delights, making Mallorca, Spain a timeless destination for discerning travelers.

Northern Italy

Embark on next-level cycling adventures and motorsports experiences in Northern Italy. Witness the historic stages of the Tour de France in Florence, Rimini, and Turin, while exploring gastronomic heritage and scenic landscapes. Stay at luxury accommodations like Middleton Lodge and experience slow travel with new railway routes and cultural events, making Northern Italy a paradise for sports enthusiasts and culture seekers.

Yorkshire, UK

Indulge in a foodie revolution amidst the enchanting landscapes of Yorkshire, UK. Experience star chefs and Michelin-starred restaurants like The Abbey Inn and Mýse, offering creative culinary experiences and luxurious accommodations. Explore Yorkshire’s natural wonders, cultural events, and emerging culinary scene, creating a bewitching travel experience in 2024.

Destinations & Experience

With an array of exciting destinations and experiences to explore, Europe beckons travelers with its rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes. Whether you seek adventure, luxury, or cultural immersion, the best places to go in Europe in 2024 promise unforgettable memories and endless discovery. Start planning your European adventure today and embark on a journey of a lifetime.

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