A Journalist's Risks: The Veronica Guerin Story

Until the movie bearing her name was released, I had no idea who Veronica Guerin was. The picture presented to me by the film was crafted by Hollywood and as much as it contains the truths of her life, it is filled with much more Hollywood propaganda then reality. In the end, though, it brings to light a legendary woman who used her voice as a journalist to highlight the drug problem in Dublin. She was assassinated a mere six years after beginning her career as a journalist, and only two years after beginning work with the Sunday Independent.

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What made her stand up and decide that enough was enough, that something had to be said about the drugs in Dublin when no one else would? It was as simple as seeing what needed to be changed in her city. She didn’t have illustrious beginnings, one that would fuel her passion for journalism and for bringing the truth to light. She was born in 1959 to a large family and grew up in North Dublin. She was educated by nuns in Killester and attended Trinity College where she developed a strong interest in politics. She studied accountancy at the college, before joining her father's accountancy firm; she would later bring this experience into her investigations on fraud. After leaving her accountancy job, she started her own public relations firm before joining the Sunday Business Post.

But it was at the Sunday Tribune that her reputation began to grow as a investigative journalist when she got the first interview with Bishop Eamon Casey. He had fled to Ecuador when his affair and his son were revealed to the world in a book.

In 1994 she joined the Sunday Independent, where she began publishing the interviews with members of the Irish underworld that led to her death. Ironically, she was assassinated two days before she was supposed to speak at a conference in London on “Dying to Tell a Story: Journalists at Risk.” Guerin had her own style of writing that set her apart from other journalists. Her editor at the Sunday Independent, Willie Kealy, believes she provided a different voice than those that were present in Irish journalism at the time, someone who was unafraid to break out of the mould.

She went out in search of her stories, pursuing interviews with leading figures in the Irish underworld in order to expose the drug trade in Dublin and the role gangs played in it. This led to her being shot in the thigh, beaten and her eventual demise. In the wake of her death, Ireland was caught in a wave of outrage. Journalist and former colleague, Kelly Fincham points out that no one expected a journalist to be assassinated at the time, despite the death threats she received.

The government was galvanized into action. It created, among other legislative changes, the Criminal Assets Bureau, which required criminals to show where they were obtaining their money from, something that was a key part of Veronica’s investigations.

I began reading about her firm in my belief that she was a sterling icon of her generation, dedicated to finding the truth and affecting change in Dublin for the better. While reading more, I found conflicting views on her journalistic methods. Was she putting her family at risk by not letting up or was she naive in her belief that she could not be touched by the criminals she was seeking to write about? But in the end, to me, that does not change that she died for wanting to pursue and reveal the truth. What could be more legendary than that?

Picture Credit: BBC News