Meathman's Diary: There comes a time where you just have to shut up and listen


We listened to Morning Ireland in the car, heading for school in abnormal silence. I could see the knuckles on my hands were white from gripping the wheel too tight.

The principal of Durrow NS, Mr James Hogan, was speaking so eloquently about his young colleague Ashling, how she lit up the lives of her poor 1st Class pupils now having to come to terms with the unbearable truth that they would never see their beloved Ms Murphy again.

"What happened?," asked the youngest (13), from the back seat.

"She was killed" replied the eldest (15), matter-of-factly from the front passenger seat where she was scanning her phone, sourcing her own news updates about the death of the talented 23-year-old musician and teacher in Tullamore.

I said nothing. I had no words.

As the report went on and I could feel my eyes welling up, blurring my vision but just stopping short of overtipping tears down my face.

I was reminded of a conversation I'd had with them in the kitchen some months back, an animated discussion about stories of women and girls having drinks spiked or being pricked with needles in niteclubs and drugged.

I said I couldn't get my head around the concept of a guy carrying a filled syringe into a club with the intention of seeking to render a woman utterly powerless and prone to assault.

The girls looked at me with that head tilt of pity teenage girls reserve for their dads.

"You don't see it, you don't hear it, you don't feel it, why would you, you're a man. Girls have to deal with that stuff all the time," fired the eldest.

"Why is it Dad, that it's always the girls who have to be 'careful going into and coming out of that place' or why is it they should 'never walk that road alone' or why is it that we 'must always have our phone charged and have keys stuck through our fingers, you know, just in case'."

I realised these were my own cliched, patriarchal lines of advice, thrown out like snuff at a wake now being quoted back to me.

I had nothing to throw out now. And they weren't finished.

"Do boys get given the same checklist of do's and don'ts?", enquired the youngest, fully aware of the answer?

I went quiet that night and probably a bit pale at the thought of their awareness and my lack of it.

It's why I was staying quiet in the car now.

They didn't need my 'perspective' on the tragic death of Ashling Murphy or my 'hot take' on what the hell has gone wrong in our society. They know too much already, more than I felt comfortable about but again, it's not about me or what I think.

It's not that men need to stop talking about these atrocities, far from it, they just need to find the right audience and it's not women and girls.

Parked up at the school, the youngest climbed over and gave me the usual awkward cheek to back of head farewell while the eldest leant across and put her head on my shoulder allowing me kiss the top of her head.

“See yiz later...”

I was still gripping the steering wheel but I couldn’t hold the tear back any longer.