Saturday 24 September 2016

'She was cool, she was fun, she was lively…she was just the world to me' - son Cathal remembers mum Veronica Guerin in poignant TV tribute

Published 09/05/2016 | 22:31

Veronica Guerin pictured with husband Graham and son Cathal at home
Veronica Guerin pictured with husband Graham and son Cathal at home

A Legacy returned tonight with the first of three hour-long documentaries which profile late iconic figures from recent Irish life.

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Last year we had Brian Lenihan, Tony Ryan and Páidí Ó Sé; Season 2 sees PJ Mara, Terry Wogan and, in this opener, Veronica Guerin.

The Dubliner was a crusading crime journalist whose talent and bravery were only matched by her long-reaching effect on Irish life and law. We all know the story of how she died and who did it; what was especially good about this film was the way it shone a light on the living woman.

A Legacy was full of warm reminiscences, first-hand accounts, nostalgic old photos and, especially, fascinating bits of information, a lot of which we didn’t know before. It all built up into a riveting portrayal of a genuinely remarkable woman.

 

1. Veronica died on June 26th, 1996: the same day as the legendary Euro 96 semi-final between England and Germany. As it happened, she was a huge soccer fan (Man United especially), and as a player, had even won an international cap for Ireland.

2. She had been shot before, the previous summer, as a threat to back off. Veronica remained undeterred, and refused to be scared by thugs.

3. Contributors included her husband Graham Turley, her son Cathal Guerin, this newspaper’s Paul Williams, Lise Hand, her friend Breda Grenell-Dick and bridesmaid Helena Stapleton, Phoenix magazine founder Paddy Prendiville (her first contact in journalism), Liam Collins and Anne Harris of the Sunday Independent, and Matt Cooper of Today FM. 

4. Veronica was born in Artane, on Dublin’s north-side. And so too are…

5. The Haugheys. She beame a close friend of the political dynasty through involvement in Fianna Fail. According to his sons Conor and Sean, interviewed here, Veronica “admired” CJH.

6. She was also, says Sean Haughey, “very republican”, with a keen interest in Northern politics.

7. Her friends knew her as Ronnie until about the age of 16 or 17, when she decided to go by the full appellation.

8. She met her future hubbie Graham at the Haughey holiday home in Dingle. They married in Artane; we saw a very cute shot of the happy pair, in full wedding regalia, posing for a photo with a pair of punk sweethearts.

9. Their son Cathal was born in 1990. Thus, he was only six when his mother died, making it all the more tragic.

10. In 1983 Veronica was given a researcher role by CJH, focusing on Northern Ireland, where she worked with John Hume, Seamus Mallon and others.

11. It was generally agreed by former colleagues that she wasn’t a great writer – but she had an incredible talent for finding out information.

12. Her many scoops for the Sunday Independent included Larry Goodman, Bishop Eamon Casey – Veronica actually tracked him down to Ecuador, where he was in hiding – and most seismically, Brendan Smyth, which eventually brought down the A Reynolds government.

13. In the early 1990s she moved into reporting on drugs and crime, becoming a pioneer in the field. It was, said Paul Williams, “undiscovered territory” for Irish journalism. Veronica introduced these criminals to the public for the time through diligent investigation and vivid portrayal.

14. How’s this for a legacy: by the end of 2014, the CAB – formed in the immediate aftermath of Veronica Guerin’s murder – had frozen crimimals’ assets worth €107million and brought in a quarter of a billion in taxes.

15. And how’s this for a fitting testament: Cathal Guerin said, “She was cool, she was fun, she was lively…she was just the world to me.”

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