President Michael D Higgins sympathized with Urantsetseg’s husband 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 congregation at St Kevin’s Church on Harrington Street in Dublin on Sunday for the service.
Ms Tserendorj (48), a mother of two, was attacked outside the CHQ building on Custom House Quay on January 20, 2021 as she returned from work. She died of her injuries in hospital two weeks later. A 15-year-old boy charged with her murder is due to stand trial this year in the Central Criminal Court.
At the end of the Memorial Mass, Mr Higgins kissed Mrs Tserendorj’s husband, Ulambayar Surenkho, in front of 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, as some migrant families do all over the world. As our own families have done across the seas – so did the Irish with their hopes…” President Higgins later told The Irish Times.
He said he “just wanted to show solidarity with the efforts that she has made but also with her husband. I listened to their situation and their need for housing. I too really wanted to wish their 17-year-old daughter years, who will do the Leaving [Cert] in these circumstances, all my best wishes”.
Mr Surenkho told The Irish Times over the weekend that he and his daughter hoped Dublin City Council could find a home for him and his daughter.
“It’s very hard for us. My daughter and I share a room. We should have separate rooms,” he said, adding that he currently had to pay €1,800 a month in rent but he only worked part-time.
Mr Higgins said he felt it was ‘very important for me as president to say how important all lives are’.
“Any loss of life and any great end of life in these terrible circumstances is something that we have to recognize for its impact on the community, for its impact on everyone’s life, for all of these reasons,” he said. .
On the broader issue of violence against women, he said a “profound cultural change is needed”.
“We all have to accept that we have to look very seriously in many ways at creating the necessary respect for diversity and gender,” he said.
Mr Higgins said he planned to announce “some initiatives” on this in March.
“What we have to realize is that there are aspects of culture that have been severed from the general fundamentals of respect,” he said. “You need everyone’s support to make the very deep cultural change that is needed.”
Prior to Mass, St Kevin’s administrator, Father 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 because this church had a special meaning for her husband”.
Mr Surenkho had said his wife was a Buddhist but there were no temples in Ireland where they could hold a church service. He lives in the Dublin 8 area, where St Kevin is.
Father Deighan continued, “I had no idea at the time how important this invitation would take on, nor how many people would come to show their respect for Urantseteg and their solidarity with your family.”
He prayed that “she will be at peace and that those who continue to mourn her tragic loss will also find peace over time. We also pray for peace in the hearts of our fellow citizens and an end to all kinds of violence in our city and on our land.
At the end of the mass, a large number of members of the Mongolian community present lit candles on a side altar.