The principal of the school where Ashling Murphy was a teacher has said there are tears flowing all day as the local community tries to come to terms with the news of her sudden and violent death.
At the gates of Durrow National School, a small shrine has been set up with flowers and candles, and a picture of her smiling as people remember her.
School Principal James Hogan told of how the school was trying to deal with Ashling’s death, its suddenness, and its impact on pupils and staff.
“No school, or anyone at any stage should be expecting something like this tragic, horrific incident and we were deeply saddened to hear our dear colleague, Miss Ashling Murphy, has passed away tragically, and the staff, the parents and pupils here and in the wider community are devastated, and words cannot describe how we feel.,” he told Independent.ie.
“Ashling was a character. Her smile, her shining light, her personality would gleam anywhere she would go. She was a fantastic teacher, the kids loved her, idolised her.”
“She was an exceptionally talented sports person, traditional Irish musician, fiddle player, and the uilleann pipes she recently she took up, and a choir leader.
"She had so many talents to offer to kids not only in a school setting but she was involved in various organisations across the county. I knew her as a principal, but also on a personal level when she was growing up.
“She had so much going for and it's devastating to think that has been taken away from her.”
He continued; “As a school our priority is obviously to staff and the children.
"We were in early this morning and we have psychologists on site supporting us. We've every strategy in place following our critical incident plan and our chairperson of the Board of Management is behind us and we're just nurturing and caring for the children during this tragic loss. That's our priority today.
“On behalf of myself and the Board, we really want to extend our gratitude to so many people who have been in touch with messages of condolences from across the nation, and in particular to all our local schools, primary and secondary.
“They've been just so supportive and we know that they're there on a day like this.
"We're just deeply, deeply saddened and the children are sad.
"It's important to reiterate to them that it's okay to be sad.
"We have to remember they hurt in a different way and we do too. We're here today as a team and as a family, without Ashling, obviously.
"And we really want to remember her and offer our deepest sympathy to her family. Words cannot describe what they're going through, and how are they going to deal with that? And we just want to offer our sympathy to them on behalf of the school community and the parish of Durrow here.
“We’re very close to them and Ashling is going to be a huge loss to us here in Durrow, across the county, and the country.”
He added; “It's important that the kids see the familiar faces of teachers in front of them today. We came early this morning. We have been briefed. We have put a plan together in terms of the best way to deal with it.
"Children will deal with it in their own way in groups and it's very important to talk about it, and to be sad. There's tears flowing in here all day. We have lovely shrines that are in the classroom, and in our school. The kids are brilliant today, they're writing their own little messages or thoughts or their little prayers and saying that ‘you're not here but you're not gone’ and it's hard.”
Ashling began teaching at the school in March last year and was made permanent for September.
Also speaking this morning was Mr Frank Kelly, a recently-retired principal of Durrow NS. He said Ashling was “an angel of a teacher”.
“The teachers all came in at 8am and there were floods of tears,” Mr Kelly told Midlands 103 Radio.
An emotional Mr Kelly, who returned to the school this morning to lend a hand, said Ashling was a person that: “smiled at you every time you met her."
“She had 28 children in first class - a very professional and talented teacher. Great talent in sports and music, a fiddle player and she told me had just recently bought a set of uilleann pipes - not the easiest instrument to play.
“She was very embedded in traditional music in Offaly and taught music in Ballyboy and gave freely of her talents. Above all, it was a privilege to be in her classroom; you’d see children clinging to her every word.
“She was a beautiful girl. Our staff came in at 8am and there were floods of tears, and then the children came in. That’s what we are trying to deal with today,” Mr Kelly said.
“It’s just overwhelming the goodwill we’ve had from other schools”.
Mr Kelly said the “difficult part” was breaking the news to her class, after being briefed by the NEPS team.
“It was explained to them without the detail but in a natural, normal way that parents would explain to children and then to let the children grieve and then record their memories of their teacher. Every one of them has beautiful memories of their time with Ashling Murphy.
“The tears are coming in waves and spreading but also the joy is coming in waves as we remember the joy that Ashling brought,” Mr Kelly said.
Mr Kelly said some children came with their parents but were “so upset” that they turned back and went home.
“We’ll care for them in time.
“In my 38 years of teaching, I have never seen anything remotely like this,” Mr Kelly said.