We farming families have to make sure we have safe communities – it’s all our job to keep rural Ireland safe
It has been a sad few days in rural Ireland. On the farm all is well; a ewe gave birth to a pair of surprise new lambs and we gave thanks for their early and safe arrival.
After the workday is done I go for a walk in the nearby park each evening with my wife or mother and we discuss the day’s events, analysing the big and small, from books to clients, from fields to animals.
However, as I went for that evening walk with my wife last weekend in the nearby parish of Colmcille, we came across a grotto to Ashling Murphy in Leebeen Park.
There were pictures of the young woman, candles lit and burning and artificial lights decorating the space. It was a beautiful and fitting tribute to that bright soul.
Ashling’s death has been a watershed moment for us rural people.
In ways, I think we always thought murder was something that happened in big cities, that rural Ireland was a safe and secure space. That when we go out for a walk or run, the people we meet always have a friendly word, and we might even stop and have a chat.
That’s all changed now. Speaking with my wife about the events of Ashling’s death, we touched on the fact that she herself doesn’t like to walk alone in case something might happen.
Back in Australia before coming here, she had incidences of strange behaviour from men in Sydney, and in Ireland on train rides coming home from work comments were made too by drunk men that made her feel threatened.
But we never thought the midlands could be a place where these events could happen. It just didn’t seem possible.
As I went for my walks the last few days I thought of all the young women I know like Ashling — teachers, nurses, accountants, all pillars of the community all with a bright future ahead of them.
And I thought too of how this would destroy my community if one of these young women were to be taken from us. It would be a wound that would stay with us forever.
As families of rural Ireland, we now have to sit down with ourselves and talk about the safety of our communities. We need to discuss the 244 deaths of women since 1996 in Ireland.
Ashling’s death is the spark from which great change will come — there is no doubt in that for it has touched every corner of the nation.
But now we need to act to ensure rural Ireland is the safe and welcoming place that we want it to be, that we purport it to be.
When I look at the new life on the farm I think of all the blessings there are in the world.
But this last while it’s been hard to see all that. Ashling’s death has rocked rural Ireland. We farming families have to make sure we have safe communities. It’s all our job to keep rural Ireland safe.
John Connell lives and farms in Co Longford