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Sunday 25 September 2016

Veronica sacrificed her life for justice

Published 24/06/2016 | 02:30

Miriam O’Callaghan,Jimmy Guerin, Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald and INM Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rae at the Veronica Guerin Anniversary in The Chester Beatty Library
Miriam O’Callaghan,Jimmy Guerin, Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald and INM Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rae at the Veronica Guerin Anniversary in The Chester Beatty Library
The Veronica Guerin Memorial at Dublin Castle.
INM CEO Robert Pitt ,Miriam O’Callaghan, Jimmy Guerin, Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald and INM Editor in Chief Stephen Rae at the Veronica Guerin Anniversary in The Chester Beatty Library
INM Chairman Lesley Buckley, Miriam O’Callaghan and Jimmy Guerin with Taniste Frances Fitzgerald and INM Editor in Chief Stephen Rae at the Veronica Guerin Anniversary in The Chester Beatty Library
Miriam O’Callaghan with Fergal Keane and Paul Williams at the Veronica Guerin Anniversary in The Chester Beatty Library .

Amid the solemn remembrance and gratitude of guests weighed the sombre, over-riding knowledge that 20 years later, not enough has changed.

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The nation owes Veronica Guerin an "enormous debt" for her sacrifice, President Michael D Higgins said in a special message.

"She worked tirelessly, and with extreme courage, to expose a drugs trade that wrought so much misery on families and communities around the country," he said, adding: "Veronica sacrificed her life in order that some of this country's most powerful criminals would eventually be brought to justice, and as a society, we owe her an enormous debt of gratitude."

On the 20th anniversary of the assassination of the Sunday Independent journalist, a new bursary for young investigative journalists was announced at a special Press Freedom commemorative event at Dublin Castle, hosted by Independent News & Media (INM).

The Veronica Guerin Memorial at Dublin Castle.
The Veronica Guerin Memorial at Dublin Castle.

Read more: Veronica's exceptional career was no surprise

At the bronze bust remembering her in the grounds of Dublin Castle, a perfect pink peony rose had been laid - a traditional symbol of riches and honour.

Amongst guests attending the event hosted by Stephen Rae, editor-in-chief of INM and Cormac Bourke, editor of the Sunday Independent, with RTE's Miriam O'Callaghan as MC, were members of Veronica's family.

President Higgins was represented by his aide-de-camp, Commandant Louise Conlon, while Papal Nuncio, His Excellency The Most Rev Charles John Brown, and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald were present together with Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan.

INM CEO Robert Pitt ,Miriam O’Callaghan, Jimmy Guerin, Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald and INM Editor in Chief Stephen Rae at the Veronica Guerin Anniversary in The Chester Beatty Library
INM CEO Robert Pitt ,Miriam O’Callaghan, Jimmy Guerin, Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald and INM Editor in Chief Stephen Rae at the Veronica Guerin Anniversary in The Chester Beatty Library

Read more: Veronica may now be a saint, but she was no angel

Leader of Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin and former Justice Minister Nora Owen - who handled the crisis following Veronica's death - were among those in attendance.

The chairman of INM Leslie Buckley, members of the board, and chief executive Robert Pitt were present to honour the murdered journalist.

Sean Potts played the uilleann pipes, while a song written for Veronica by Christy Moore was sung by Brian Kennedy.

INM Chairman Lesley Buckley, Miriam O’Callaghan and Jimmy Guerin with Taniste Frances Fitzgerald and INM Editor in Chief Stephen Rae at the Veronica Guerin Anniversary in The Chester Beatty Library
INM Chairman Lesley Buckley, Miriam O’Callaghan and Jimmy Guerin with Taniste Frances Fitzgerald and INM Editor in Chief Stephen Rae at the Veronica Guerin Anniversary in The Chester Beatty Library

Journalist Fergal Keane of the BBC told guests that 20 years on, the drug lords are "still killing" and threats against journalists continuing, with the influence of social media increasing the threat of harm.

In nine of out ten cases where a journalist is murdered, "the killer goes scot free" he warned, claiming there was a lack of political will to solve this.

Mr Buckley said while Veronica had wanted to pursue crime lords profiting from the misery of others, "she has left us with a lasting legacy at INM, which is the encouragement to be brave in the pursuit of the truth".

"We will make sure that legacy continues," he added.

INM group editor-in-chief Stephen Rae said Veronica Guerin did not want to be a hero, but was an ordinary person who achieved the extraordinary through remarkable courage and determination.

Earlier this year, two INM journalists received threats to their safety, Mr Rae said: "We cannot be put off by threats."

Irish Independent

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