President Michael D Higgins has sympathised with the husband of Urantsetseg Tserendorj after a Mass marking the first anniversary of the Mongolian woman’s fatal stabbing in Dublin last year.
Mr Higgins was among the large attendance at St Kevin’s Church on Dublin’s Harrington Street on Sunday for the service.
Ms Tserendorj (48), a mother of two, was attacked outside the CHQ building on Custom House Quay on January 20th, 2021 while returning home from work. She died of her injuries in hospital two weeks later. A 15-year-old boy charged with her murder is to face trial at the Central Criminal Court this year.
As the memorial Mass ended, Mr Higgins embraced Ms Tserendorj’s husband Ulambayar Surenkho before the altar rails.
“When I think of a woman, of a family that comes [to Ireland] in 2006, all those years ago. They worked, had their children, educated them, just as some migrant families do all over the world. As our own families have done across the seas – Irish people as well with their hopes…,” President Higgins told The Irish Times later.
He said he “just wanted to indicate a solidarity with the efforts that she made but also with her husband. I listened to their circumstances and their housing need. I, also, very much wanted to wish their girl of 17, who is going to be doing the Leaving [Cert] in those circumstances, every good wish”.
Mr Surenkho told The Irish Times this weekend that he and his daughter were hoping Dublin City Council could find a home for him and his daughter.
“It is very hard for us. My daughter and I share a room. We should have separate rooms,” he said, adding that he currently has to pay €1,800 a month in rent but is only working part-time.
Mr Higgins said he felt it was “very important for me as President to say how all lives are important”.
“Any loss of life and any great ending of life in these terrible circumstances is something that we must recognise for its impact on the community, for its impact on life for everyone, for all of these reasons,” he said.
On the broader issue of violence against women, he said “deep cultural change is necessary”.
“We all have to accept that we have to have a very serious look in many ways at creating the respect that is necessary towards diversity and gender,” he said.
Mr Higgins said he plans to announce “some initiatives” on the matter in March.
“What we must realise is that there are aspects of culture that have got cut away from the basic, general fundamentals of respect,” he said. “You need the support of everyone in making the very deep cultural change that’s necessary.”
Before the Mass, St Kevin’s Administrator Fr Gerard Deighan explained how “a few days ago I received a simple email asking if Urantsetseg’s name could be mentioned at Sunday Mass in this church since this church had special significance for her husband”.
Mr Surenkho had said his wife was a Buddhist but that there were no temples in Ireland for them to hold a religious service in. He lives in the Dublin 8 area, where St Kevin’s is located.
Fr Deighan continued: “I had no idea at the time how significant this invitation would become nor the large number of people that would come along to show their respect for Urantsetseg and their solidarity with your family.”
He prayed that “she is at peace and that those who continue to mourn her tragic loss will also find peace as the time passes on. We pray also for peace in the hearts of our fellow citizens and an end to all kinds of violence in our city and in our land.”
As the Mass ended large numbers of the Mongolian community present lit candles at a side altar.