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It’s happened again. No, not another party at Downing Street

As the national dialogue is swamped with Partygate, yet another young woman has been killed. Her name was Ashling Murphy, she was 23 years old and she was going for a run.

A photograph of Ashling Murphy among flowers and candles during a vigil. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images.

It’s happened again.

The government has been swept up in the news of yet another party at Downing Street which broke the Covid restrictions the rest of the country endured. One was held the night before Prince Phillip’s funeral. The antics were so raucous that one staffer broke Wilf Johnson’s swing in the garden while another was sent to the Co-op with a suitcase to fill it with more alcohol.

But no, this isn’t what I’m referring to.

On Wednesday afternoon, Ashling Murphy, a 23-year-old teacher, was attacked and killed on the Grand Canal outside Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland. A man in his 40s was arrested on Wednesday, questioned on Thursday but has since been released by police. No one has yet been charged.

Ashling was on a run at 4pm. It was daylight and she was on a public pathway. Women are told, repeatedly, not to walk home alone in the dark, not to drink too much, to text their friends when they get home and to hold their keys between their knuckles. Must we now add not running alone in the daylight to the arsenal of how to keep ourselves safe?

Every time I speak to my grandmother on the phone, she signs off with “and don’t walk in the dark on your own”. I always reply that I won’t. How do I now explain to her that walking, or running, in the daylight isn’t any safer? That it’s open season on women and has been for years.

Last year, Sarah Everard was walking home. Sabina Nessa was on the way to meet someone for a first date. The year is 14 days in, and now Ashling Murphy, who was just going for a run, joins this horrific list.

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), between March 2020 and 2021 207 women were killed. Between just March and October last year, at least 81 women were killed. Research from the Femicide Census, an organisation that collects information on men’s violence against women, found that over the last decade, nine out of ten killers were men. The figures verge on gruesome, but year after year nothing is changing.

Frustratingly, at the moment there seems to be more concern over the number of parties that were held at Number 10 – it’s at 16, for those keeping score.

Liz Truss wants the public to move on from Partygate. This won’t, and shouldn’t, happen. However, we have to have a broad enough bandwidth for issues that other matters don’t fall by the wayside in the wake of this.

Signs among candles and flowers during a vigil for Ashling Murphy. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images.

The fact that a 23-year-old woman cannot go for a run in the daylight without fear of getting attacked and killed is abhorrent. At the bare minimum, it deserves to be spoken about. As does the fact that in March last year, Wayne Couzens was able to kidnap and kill Sarah Everard by falsely arresting her for breaking the Covid restrictions put in place by a government that failed to adhere to them themselves.

So, this week it happened again. Yes, there was further news of more Downing Street parties, and it seems that in all likelihood there will be more. But, another young woman was killed where she should’ve been safe. Unless something drastic changes, it also seems in all likelihood it will happen again.

Women’s safety cannot lose its place in public discourse. Equally, the discussion cannot consist of having the same debate over and over again. Instead, the government should pay some attention to the issue – perhaps just while a staffer is on a booze run, suitcase in hand, to top up the drinks cabinet? It doesn’t matter that this happened in Ireland. It will happen again, in Britain.

It’s exhausting having the same conversation year after year when it comes to women’s safety. However, it is not nearly as exhausting as discussing the latest instalment of Partygate in its place.

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