Veronica Guerin: 20 years on.


Veronica Guerin is always someone I have admired. I’ve always had such a strong interest in writing and since I was old enough to comprehend the story of Veronica Guerin, I have found it fascinating. This woman, a wife, mother, sister and friend became a public icon. She tackled some of the countries most dangerous criminals head on in a bid to expose the over whelming wealth they possessed as a result of drugs regardless of their intimidating threats and violent actions.

When I was about seven or eight years old myself and my family were headed to Mosney for our Summer holiday. On route, we passed the spot where Veronica had been killed. Although young, it is a moment I still remember. My parents spoke about the tragic incident and I looked at the bouquet of flowers which marked the spot where she lost her life. Having studied New Media and English for my Undergraduate Degree and having still had a strong interest in her story,  I chose to study the case of Veronica Guerin in more depth for my final year project. I looked at the framing and the impact gender and crime reporting had on the case. The project only enhanced my interest in Veronica Guerin and I believe it is an event in Irish history that should be continually recognised, particularly as her twentieth anniversary occurs later this month on June 26th.

As Guerin’s twentieth anniversary does draw closer it becomes increasingly frustrating to see gangland violence and feuds dominating news once more. The most recent series of events between the Hutch and Kinahan gangs has resulted in seven deaths so far, one which was as a result of mistaken identity. It’s a stark reminder that although society have fought against criminals such as these in the past we must not become complacent in tackling them further.

Veronica Guerin’s death sparked a number of significant changes in Irish society. The development of the Criminal Assets Bureau later in 1996 is potentially one of the most influential. It enabled criminals’ assets to be seized and taken from them. CAB continue to work to prevent, and track down, suspected proceeds of criminal conduct.

The whole case is one which has shaped the Irish media. Some argue that the criminals were sensationalised by the use of such nick names as “The General” or the “The Monk” but it is also true that the criminals could not be named and there needed to be some way to speak of them. Some argue that The Sunday Independent should have done more to stop Guerin from continually pursuing these criminals at the rate that she was. Ultimately, these were decisions Guerin probably made for herself.

We must also acknowledge that there have been many journalists who have lost their lives as a result of their jobs and that Guerin doesn’t stand alone. She is however, one of the most recognised. This was as a result of new developments in crime reporting which were hitting their peak during the mid nineties. The development of crime correspondents focusing solely on the topic as well as including the journalist’s name alongside their articles made the writers much more public figures. Guerin managed to develop a celebrity status as a result of her writing and she had undoubtedly become a household name although I believe this was the least of her intentions.

There is no denying that Veronica Guerin’s perseverance and determination brought about many changes in Irish society. She is a woman I have tremendous respect for and I only wish I had been old enough to fully appreciate the extent of what she was trying to do when it was all taking place. Regardless of the should haves and would haves in this case there is one thing that cannot be denied and that is Veronica Guerin exposed a generation of criminal gangs. She brought to light the frightening truth about their activity and paid the ultimate price in doing so. We can only hope that her legacy continues to grow and encourage others not to give up the battle.


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